The World March had two parts in Berlin. One was the March and events planned for the 7th and 8th of November (which were the dates planned back at the beginning of the process) and the second was on the 10th and 11th. This is because we had originally planned to coincide with the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit (which was to be on the 7th and 8th) but eventually they changed their plans and we couldn’t change ours so a small delegation of World Marchers went back to Berlin.
The Nobel Summit was important because we have been taking their Charter for a World without Violence around the world and this Summit was an opportunity for us to officially receive the Charter from them. On this occasion, Silo, the founder of Universalist Humanism and the inspiration behind World without Wars and the World March, was given the opportunity to speak to the Summit. It is without doubt one of the most important moments of the March for the Humanists involved.
So, as is usual, when Silo speaks, humanist friends come to listen and so around 200 of us converged on Berlin. The Germans did a splendid job of organising everything with airport collection, hotels, venues, wifi and merchandise all organised. Also there was a splendid party organised for the evening of the 10th with great food!
The party was an opportunity to meet with many friends from many countries that the World March has visited and to hear about the different experiences. There were about 4 or 5 of us from the Balkan team also present. In one moment the Germans gave us all a quite unexpected present, they all got onto the stage to sing a very powerful version of “Ode to Joy” in German. It was the second time they’d done it; the first being in the airport when the Base Team arrived. This time though, with more singers and a smaller space the noise was tremendous and full of emotion. Many of us were once more moved to tears!
The following day we got up by 6:00 am to be ready to leave by 7:15 to get to the venue and with everything prepared so that at 9:00 Silo could speak. On arrival at the Berlin City Hall I have to say I was surprised because it’s probably the first time I’ve ever seen 200 humanists be on time for something! That shows how important it was :-)
I had been asked to do the translation from Spanish to English, so I went to the translation booth and started to re-read the translation to prepare myself. A short while later the official summit translators arrived and to their disgust they found me there. “That’s great! A volunteer translator,” said one of the guys, in a tone of voice that indicated that it wasn’t really so great after all. So a series of quick conversations between Marita (the German organiser from our side) and the translators resulted in my eviction from the translation booth, something that I was most grateful for a few minutes later when Silo started to speak.
Before Silo spoke though, we had the great pleasure to hear an introduction from Mairead Corrigan-Maguire. Now I recommend reading about this woman. Three of her sister’s children were killed in an accident during an incident between the IRA and the British Army back in 1976. Her sister later committed suicide. Mairead decided to adopt non-violent strategies to fight the violence in Northern Ireland and together with Betty Williams she won the Nobel Prize in 1977.
When she speaks she reminds me a bit of my mum! She sort of has a motherly way like she just wants to give you a big hug and look after you and make the world a better place. Anyway she was very enthusiastic about the World March and made a great introduction and invited Silo to speak.
And then there was a small moment of Magic.
I was standing by the side of the first row of chairs. From here I could see Silo directly and also the main door leading in to the hall. Silo went to the microphone and started his speech, “Una marcha recorre el mundo. Es la Marcha por la Paz y la No Violencia,” and then he stopped. Someone was entering and I looked and I realised why Silo had stopped… Gorbachev had just walked in! He’s much smaller than I imagined and if it wasn’t for the red mark on his head I may not have realised who it was.
I knew that Gorbachev was due to speak later around 10:00am and I hadn’t really expected him to come for this, but there he was taking his seat and Silo re-started, “Una marcha recorre el mundo. Es la Marcha por la Paz y la No Violencia.” He spoke slowly and deliberately and it was very nice. At the end, everyone in the audience stood up to applaud, even the Nobel Summit people and all the authorities and dignitaries who were sitting in the reserved seats in the front rows.
Gorby didn’t stay until the end unfortunately, but it was clear that he had come to see Silo and I wonder what passed through their minds as they exchanged glances. One of the great heroes of nuclear disarmament meets one of the great heroes of non-violent social transformation. Fantastic!
Once Silo had finished, I think Mairead gave the charter to Rafa and then Anna Polo gave a gift to Mairead and thanked her for her support, and that was it. I crossed the hall to go out and chat to whoever was there about our impressions of the speech only to nearly bump into Gorby as he came back in to speak! If only I’d have been a bit more prepared I would have shaken his hand, but alas I wasn’t ready…
Here are some photo albums: