People's Assemblies Network

Occupy Faith – Pilgrimage of Justice

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This summer, a group of concerned citizens from all walks of life will come together to recreate a modern version of an ancient journey in the hope of building a more equitable future. A two week long walk from London to Canterbury will culminate in a conference on social, economic and environmental justice.

Events held along the route will explore how local communities, faith communities, cooperatives, social organisations and individuals can identify common concerns and work together, reinventing the idea of civil society – the commons – as a potent force for social change. The Pilgrimage for Justice will be a highly visible statement of people’s determination to see a better, fairer society – and it will also provide a focus for exploring what that kind of society might look like, and the policy changes to propose for getting there.

Why now?

 We are living in extraordinary times. 2011 saw a profusion of social movements emerge worldwide. In their variety, those movements had one thing in common: ordinary people congregating to rediscover a sense of community and determine real social needs. With economic conditions becoming more and more difficult for many people in the UK, the impulse to reconfigure society on more socially and economically equitable lines is not going to go away.
 The Pilgrimage for Justice aims to harness this popular energy in a way that does more than direct attention to the problems – although we will provide an opportunity for individuals to talk about their personal stories, as the Pilgrimage will be listening to each town as we pass through. Our long walk is a journey in which all who take part will move out of their respective comfort zones and work together to identify real solutions. A transformative communal experience will feed into a final conference and – we hope – a consensus on social principles and policy proposals that will carry the debate forward beyond the Pilgrimage itself.
What will we do
Over the course of two weeks, a group of latter-day pilgrims will walk the distance from London to Canterbury. The route will be set out in a sequence of discrete legs, with potential participants invited to join either for the full walk, or at whichever point they prefer, or simply for a particular leg of the journey.
There will be overnight stops in which we will be inviting in local communities, with two nights each in the larger urban areas, and one night at each of the smaller towns en route. The Canterbury conference will take place over three days, with sessions for discussion being partly fed in through the Pilgrimage, but also with set sessions with academics, experts, social and economic policy makers and potentially politicians. St Paul’s Cathedral will be giving the Pilgrims a blessing when they set off and Canterbury Cathedral will host a welcome for us with a reception, and we will hold an Interfaith Service in the Chapter House the day after arrival. There will be a variety of means for people to participate, both on the ground and online, for those who cannot join us on the ground.
Who we are
Occupy Faith UK is an autonomous organisation that has an affinity with the global Occupy movement and functions also as a working group in Occupy London, as well as sharing links with Occupy Faith in the USA. We engage with the values that faith communities and those with other spiritual and political faith share in order to raise awareness of issues of social, economic and environmental injustice as they affect communities across the UK. We welcome collaboration and are proud that the Pilgrimage for Justice is also supported by many organisations, including faith and campaigning organisations working on social and economic justice, including Zacchaeus Trust, Taxpayers Against Poverty, Jubilee Debt Campaign, CAMPACC, Churches Against Poverty, Justice and Peace (Diocese of Westminster), BARAC, Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation (Diocese of Southwark), and Canterbury Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral, United Reformed Church Wales, Ekklesia, The Quaker’s and many more who are supportive of this initiative. 

What we need

Occupy Faith UK and the Pilgrimage for Justice have come about in the last four months, and what we are attempting is a new and refreshing means by which to both build community cohesion through engaging with local communities en route, as well as to seek an equitable future for all, through potential policy proposals through the “Building a Just Society” conference. The Pilgrimage for Justice is in need of funding.
 Occupy Faith UK has dedicated people, a route and locations to stay along the way. What we need most of all to put on the Pilgrimage for Justice is funding or support en route. This does not have to break the bank, but we need individuals and charitable bodies to donate to help us to fund the Pilgrimage. As a charity, we are able to receive donations and can also receive online donations through the website.

What Pilgrims will need:

  • good pair of walking shoes (not brand new)
  • tent
  • sleeping bag
  • waterproof clothing
  • sunscreen
  • plasters (for feet!)
  • personal medication
  • toiletries
  • sense of humour
  • faith in a better society
  • always carry a towel with you
  • backpack to carry it all in!
We will be hosted with food by some of the communities and we will endeavour to provide food en route as and when possible, but each Pilgrim is expected to take responsibility for feeding themselves, and ensuring they have enough water, etc. for the entire route. In addition, Occupy Faith UK does not accept any responsibility for any injuries, medical emergencies, financial losses, loss of possessions, or any responsibility to provide food or shelter for anyone participating in this pilgrimage. Pilgrims walk entirely at their own risk, although, Occupy Faith UK will endeavour to make this journey as pleasant as possible with provisions where local communities are willing to host us. This is not meant to be easy, pilgrimage traditionally has an aspect of penitential accountability and personal responsibility in the journey that you are undertaking. We will at times be camping on common land and expect every Pilgrim to take responsibility for ensuring that NO litter is left behind, and that the land that we leave is as we found it.
Our core needs for the Pilgrimage are: 
  • Locations for us to camp (Churches that may have a little land or even letting us stay inside the Churches/Church halls)
  • Host communities to help feed the Pilgrims
  • Facilities where we can use toilets, washing facilities, get fresh water
  • Vehicle support for carrying equipment
  • Volunteers to help set up tents and clean up after Pilgrims leave to next town
  • Food and water, Tea and coffee
  • First Aid volunteers and first aid boxes
  • High Vis Steward vests
The route for the Pilgrimage: 
Start: 7 June -  St Paul’s

Walk to Blackheath 6-7 miles

 Arrive: 7 June – Blackheath (2 nights)

Leave: 9 June – Walk to Dartford Heath 8-9 miles

 Arrive: 9 June -  Dartford Heath (2 nights)

Leave: 11 June – Walk to Gravesend 8+ miles

 Arrive: 11 June – Gravesend (2 nights)

Leave: 13 June – Walk to Rochester About 6 miles

Arrive: 13 June – Rochester (2 nights)

Leave: 15 June – Walk to Newington About 8 miles

 Arrive: 15 June -  Newington (2 nights)

Leave: 17 June Walk to Bapchild/Templeton About 6 miles

 Arrive: 17 June – Bapchild/Templeton (1 night)

Leave 18 June: Walk to Faversham About 6 miles

 Arrive: 18 June – Faversham (1 night)

Leave: 19 June – Walk to Canterbury via Chartham Hatch 8 miles

 Communities hosting the Pilgrims:

 St Paul’s Cathedral will give a blessing to the Pilgrims before we set off.

Shri Guru Nanak Darbar Gudwara are graciously hosting a dinner for the Pilgrims at Gravesend.

Christchurch Chrurch in Gravesend will host a discussion with the Bishop of Rochester attending.

Canterbury Cathedral will be hosting an interfaith reception service in the Chapter House.

 Strategic Plans:

Since the distance, stamina and strength required for this pilgrimage may be beyond the physical capabilities of some that wish to participate, it should be open for people to join in on any particular leg of the pilgrimage. There is increasing marginalisation of different communities and social groups within the UK, and this is a means by which to bring diverse groups of people together.

Some will wish to undertake the full pilgrimage and conference, some may wish to only undertake only part of the journey, and some of the public participation may be only in the conference. It will be clarified that both the conference and pilgrimage are open to the public at no charge, but donations will be welcomed. Both the Pilgrimage for Justice and the conference will be inviting people to participate from all backgrounds, those of faith and no faith.

A concerted effort will be made to encourage local faith communities to participate in their areas in the overnight stops for discussions, debates, teach-in and in public general assemblies. In addition, there will be a special effort to communicate to both faith and non-faith communities to become involved as part of this pilgrimage. There is a chance to engage the general public who are not in the local communities or participating pilgrims to join in with the public general assemblies.

 Reasons for undertaking the Pilgrimage:

People undertaking a pilgrimage often do so at times of personal difficulty, crisis or transition, and they see pilgrimage as an opportunity for reflection and inspiration as they begin a new chapter of their lives. We are seeking a new chapter for our society, a place in which we can turn away from consumerism and apathy to valuing people over profit. The pilgrimage offers the chance for individuals to undertake this transforming journey. The pilgrimage symbolises something passionate, and since cathedrals have traditionally been places that people gather, it has symbolic strength in the pilgrimage starting and ending at cathedrals.

In undertaking a Pilgrimage for Justice, there is an opportunity for the pilgrims to reflect on their accountability and responsibility in, and also as consumers of, the existing system. Pilgrimage is an excellent way of improving relations between different age groups, backgrounds and beliefs, and offers an opportunity to find what we have in common as diverse groups. The Pilgrimage will show a different way of living and creating community spirit, so that the people can develop practices of community living. The listening dimension of the pilgrimage is important, as it is about sharing stories and gathering data for the conference feed in. The pilgrimage will seek to find new and interesting ways to get the people that the pilgrims come into contact with, to think about capitalism and how it shapes their lives.

As they pass through towns and villages, and through the overnight camping stops, the pilgrims will be able to engage in discussion, debate, reflection and conversation with members of the local communities, visitors and the other pilgrims sharing their journey. This will allow for discussion on real issues affecting our world today and through the general assemblies, allow for those whose voices are perhaps never heard to have a chance to be heard. The Pilgrimage for Justice will attempt to be a platform to highlight the problems that need systemic change in order to resolve the iniquities and inequalities that dominate the current system. Pilgrims will be encouraged to have banners relating to issues they wish to raise, and to rediscover the historical, spiritual and political significance of the towns and villages they pass through and stop at overnight. An effort will be made to get people interested in their environment, history and how injustice affects the structure of local society through to the wider world, so that people not only understand and embrace their responsibilities, but become the trustees of a better future for all.


 The aim of the pilgrimage is to engage the public and local communities in becoming actively involved in understanding and sharing practices of civic deliberation of issues affecting all communities in the UK and beyond in relating to poverty, social, economic and environmental injustice and inequality, that is being propagated by government, banks and corporations in the currently unsustainable and undemocratic system.


 By the end of the Pilgrimage for Justice:

Participants should have a better knowledge of many of the current issues that affect local communities regarding poverty, and especially specific aspects of economic injustice directly linked to the City of London, Corporations, the British banking system, and be able to link these to global issues.

Local communities and participants contributing to debates and discussions will gain knowledge and understanding and, by being able to hear expert speakers of all beliefs and none. In addition, they will have the opportunity to have their voices heard, through joining in teach-in sessions and by participation in general assemblies.

General assemblies will enable people to think about their accountability and responsibility within not only their own communities, but also in civil society. These general assemblies will also feed into the conference, Building a Just Society.

We are also hoping to build a social network in collaboration with the Kent Enterprise Hub, with the ambitious goal of promoting grass roots positive social change. As well as working on an album sourced by artists local to Canterbury to raise funds for a food redistribution project in Canterbury.

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