Prayers for peace in Trafalgar Square

 Around 500 people of all faiths gathered in Trafalgar Square this afternoon for a silent peace vigil before the start of the national demonstration. The quiet gathering of Buddhist monks and nuns, Moslems, Hindus, and Christians of all denominations - carrying posters depicting white doves and rainbow coloured Pax Christi flags contrasted with a more boisterous demonstration of school children on the other side of the Square. Later in the day the faith groups joined up with national peace groups, trade unions and students for a massive march from Malet Street down along the South Bank, past the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street to a rally in Trafalgar Square to protest at the visit of President Bush and American foreign policy. The demonstration was headed by Ron Covic, the wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran whose story is told in the movie The Fourth of July. Speakers at the rally included Bruce Kent from Pax Christi and Mayor Ken Livingstone. Police estimate that around 110,000 took part in the demo. The Stop the War Coalition say there were more than 150,000. Demonstrators came by train, coach and car, from all over the UK. Mrs Janet Majors, a retired Catholic teacher from Bristol who came with her daughter, said: "We're not anti-American but we are desperately worried about the ways our governments are dealing with the Middle East. We need to find political solutions. President Bush speaks of the need for 'controlled violence' in dealing with violence but that is not the Christian way. Violence will bring more violence." Joe Malik, a Moslem teacher from Tulse Hill, South London, said: "I think it's pity so many people are demonising President Bush today with posters and chants. Although I completely disagree with his policies and don't understand why Tony Blair supports him, I think it's a mistake to focus on that. We need to ask why we have leaders like this. We share some of the responsibility for their actions. We need to be more politically aware. We need to pray more."

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