Grassroots Peace Activism

By Shirley Farlinger

Austin Repath, 64, has a unique and active way of celebrating the millennium. He and wife, Marilyn Melville, will begin a two-month pilgrimage from Chartres Cathedral near Paris, France, to Spain, walking along the Road to Santiago.

Austin was one of the initiators of the Peal for Peace in 1986, the International Year of Peace. Churches, schools and homes joined in A Minute of Silence: A Moment of Sound to mark the International Day of Peace, September 14.

But Austin considers that type of celebration too static. He regards the peace process as a pilgrimage which cannot be achieved by any declaration. "We don't have peace because we're not reconciled in our own lives.The millennium is the end of something and endings give us a chance to make peace with our past."

Austin, former Catholic humanities professor, travelled the same road last summer. Since the ninth century Santiago has been famous as the burial place of St. James, patron saint of Spain. Hundreds of thousands have walked the World Heritage Site. Arrows guide you, and monasteries or hostels at one dollar a night offer rest. You're welcomed and respected as a pilgrim, not a tourist. The chance to appreciate nature and form community echo the idea of a culture of peace. "It's a rich, fun time," says Austin. "We can look at the past, celebrate the present, confront our dark side, have courage to look at the future and say the world could be different."

The millennium is a time of high energy which can go in a positive or negative apocalyptic direction. "The apostle James is right on. "What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war"(James 4:1). Nike, Coca Cola and The Three Tenors are not Austin's idea of millenium boosters. "We can create our own events or simply spend time with family," he says.

With his hat and staff, Austin makes peace a personal act and bears witness to his cause wherever he goes.

Millenium Eve Vigil, 2 Slade Ave.Toronto,ON,M6G3A1 ,Millenniumvigil@hcol.humberc.on.ca,

Peace Magazine Fall 1999

Peace Magazine Fall 1999, page 15. Some rights reserved.

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