Many Faiths One Humanity

Berlin Wall - Change Your Life

We started the day at the Imperial War Museum; a place that originally celebrated the conquests of the British Empire.  In recent years though, it has been changed to show the impacts of war on society. We had our own tour guide, Prof. Cathy Roberts, an expert in the effects of conflict its psychology.  The first thing that I noticed was the two big guns in front of the building.  Artillery from a WWI war ship didn’t seem to fit my image of what we were trying to accomplish on this trip.  But soon it became clear, to the left and in a place that could not be ignored was a small symbol of what this museum was really about – a piece of the Berlin wall.  I was impressed.

As we entered it seemed a typical war museum, heavy and full of “big toys” and we wandered around a bit but soon headed to our destination: the Holocaust Exhibit.  I must say that it was beyond words what I felt; take it in was all anyone could do.  There were no photos allowed in this section of the museum, but I can’t imagine that anyone would want to even without the restriction.  From there we experienced “The Blitz” in a bomb shelter, and toured the “Home Front” exhibit. 

Many Faiths One Humanity

Tibetan Peace Garden

At this point Prof. Roberts guided us to lunch in the café and then instructed us to “dance your way to the garden.”  Yes, the garden.  The Tibetan Peace Garden is next to the Imperial War Museum.  I couldn’t think of a better way to deal with the horror of war than to allow peace to encircle it and bloom from the same ground. 

I journey for the day then took us to the Notre Dame Church.  A French Catholic church on the edge of China Town.  It was magnificent, modern, and totally out-of-place.  What struck many of us was the central image was not that of Jesus or a crucifix but rather a tapestry with a woman as that central theme.  Not only that but the church was a building in the round, there were not square corners, only curves and open space.  The priest who greeted our group made every effort to inform our group about the facility.  What was impressive was the fact that he just assumed that none of us knew anything regarding Christianity and gave a “gentle academic” tour that was wonderful in instructing rather than preaching.  With the tour ended it was time for tea!

Many Faiths One Humanity

The Crypt

What better place to have tea than in a crypt?  Well, that’s what we thought too.  At St. Martins in the Fields the Crypt is where you go for tea and discussion.  The underground of the church has been converted to a space that nourishes the living.  I found out that on Wednesdays you can enjoy Jazz night in the Crypt.  But it wasn’t Wednesday and we had more to do, so off we went to the Buddhist Society.  A beautiful facility housing over 4500 book in its library. We were given time for a sitting mediation led by our own Buddhist Chaplain; it was a peaceful way to end the day.  A time to sit quietly and listen as the deep bell resonated its baritone throughout the room.  When it was over, there seemed to be a calm and peace shared by the entire group.

Many Faiths One Humanity

Buddhist Society

It was now dark, but the day was still not ended.  We needed to reflect as a group on what the day had meant.  This will be a daily practice while on this trip.  A practice that I feel is necessary for each of us to gain perspective of each other and to find common ground.  As we began the discussion we looked back to what the frame for the day had been – a philosophy that “the only thing that matters is interpersonal relationships and the pursuit of beauty in all its forms.”  Discussions ran deep regarding the relationships made and broken during the Holocaust and how it would be impossible to find beauty there. But the discussion was more than just what was seen, it was about how these same themes are reflected in our current lives, in current society, and what can we learn or change about the world and the overtures that are in the now.  The discussion went on for an hour and a half and I believe it would have gone on late into the night if we could have let it.  But sleep and personal reflection are also important and so the evening finally ended. 

Friendships and understandings between the different participants are forming.  Through these connections I do believe a great deal will be accomplished.