The Bible and sacred texts from other religions often use the metaphor of roads to speak of individual and collective journeys of faith. We are encouraged to follow the straight and narrow paths, or to take the long road not the easy one. We are encouraged to avoid roads of no return.
Roads are thus symbols of movement, growth and transformation. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus is one of the better known examples reflecting a complete transformation of belief and faith.
Our relationship with our neighbourhood streets are often a good measurement of how healthy we are as a nation. Are our streets places of engagement, where friendships are forged and games are played, or are they places to be avoided as places which are threatening and unsafe particularly for women and children.
Communities also develop special relationships with their streets and develop a street-based identity as most evident when their streets represent a site of destruction and removal as in all the Group Areas engineered removals around apartheid South Africa: Sophiatown, Tramway Road (Sea Point) and District Six for example.
Across the world, streets are symbol that all can relate to in different ways.
Today we will step out onto the streets together, forming a community of walkers who long for peace and unity. We will think of the example of Mahatma Gandhi and his movement between places as he walked the many streets of different communities. For a moment all of us here will form a visible community of walkers, committed to an act of solidarity for different reasons.
My prayer is that the many reasons that we are here today – whether it is to support a healthy lifestyle, to make a public statement of a mass showing for peace, to exercise a sense of ownership of streets in our city, to walk reflectively, meditating on the purpose, walk and journeys of the Mahatma – that we will find ways to continue and grow this community of purpose beyond today. That the residue of today’s walk, which we have the privilege of doing in peace and safety, heightens our awareness of those deprived of such peace.