Religious Processions

Religious procession is a procession that is led by religious leaders. Usually there are relics or other religious items and religious symbols carried prominently in the procession. A procession is a group of people who follow a designated path, usually through local streets, to a common ending point. The ending point is usually not significant to the cause being supported by the religious procession. Many religions include specific guidelines for various types of processions in their rites.

A religious procession that is organized as non-violent protest is usually formed to support a cause of the local people. In many cultures, religion is a major part of daily living. This gives the religion power with its members, making religion a natural focus to support issues of its members. Some religious processions become protests during procession to celebrate an religious event. These types of processions are not what non-violent religious processions are. Rather, the religious procession requires any government or police stopping the procession to face both consequences of interrupting a peaceful protest and a religious ceremony together.

A non-violent religious procession usually begins with a meeting in the community. An agreement is reached to draw attention to the issue by bringing citizens together and marching to an ending point along with precious religious items and ministers joining with the people. The issue is not a church problem; it is usually a complaint about local government policy. Often at the end of the march, prayers and songs are sung. Procession members conduct devotions during the march as well.

There are a number of examples of religious processions. One of the most well-known is the Salt March organized by Gandhi in 1930. This 240 mile religious procession was joined by more and more people as it continued. Gandhi was protesting British rule over India, and had started by protesting the salt monopoly controlled by the British. The march did not change things immediately, but awoke an awareness in the people that they could change their future. At the beginning of the Russian revolution in 1917, Russian Orthodox members used religious processions to protest treatment of citizens by the new regime. Dr. Martin Luther King used Gandhi’s approach to non-violence as one of the guiding examples for his marches for Civil Rights. Many of the famous Civil Rights protests were religious processions, including Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Other countries have taken up the banner. Religious processions are being used in India, Pakistan, Russia, Poland and other countries to attempt to achieve change in government policies. Countries with more than one faction of the Muslim religion often use religious processions to sway the local government to support one faction over the other.

Some religious processions are held once a year to honor some event that has not been remedied in the opinion of the protestors. The yearly religious processions on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision is an example. Another example is the yearly Orange parade in Northern Ireland.

The success of combining both religion and a protest procession is mixed at best. Many of the processions have not been successful. Still, a religious procession can be a valuable tool to use to make progress on a difficult issue with its double power of religion and non-violent protest. And, while many religious processions have not immediately remedied a cause, the fact they are remembered years later shows that some of the goals of the participants were achieved.

Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.

Also check out The Politics of Nonviolent Action Part One / Part Two / Part Three.

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