Buddhist monk leads 3,000 in silent L.A. peace walk

Associated Press, Oct 9, 2005

LOS ANGELES, USA -- There was no cheering, no chanting and no sign waving. The march organized by Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh brought together 3,000 people to enjoy an unusual state in this city silence.

Activist mom Cindy Sheehan, who garnered national attention this summer with her anti-war vigil outside President Bush's Crawford ranch, was among those who attended the Saturday event at MacArthur Park west of downtown Los Angeles. She and Hanh embraced before the march began, but Hanh was not shy about expressing his view of Sheehan's tactics.

"I don't think shouting angrily at government can help us end the war," he said. "When we are able to change our own thinking, the government will have to change."

Hanh later told the audience: "We don't think shouting in anger can help. If you make people angry and fearful, then you cannot reduce violence and fear.

"When you speak to people, you should speak to them in a language they can understand. By doing that, we can turn our enemies into our friends."

The 79-year-old Vietnamese Zen master was an early opponent of the Vietnam War in the 1960s and was forced into exile in France where he lives at a monastery. He returned to his native country for the first time in April. Martin Luther King Jr., whose own views on the war were influenced by Hanh, nominated the monk for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Hanh organized the two-hour silent peace walk as a "gift to the people of Los Angeles."

Michelle Thomas, a former actor from Westminster, said the walk was very different from other rallies she had attended.

"I've been to anti-war rallies where we carry picket signs and march, and it's very aggressive," Thomas said, as she sat on a grassy hill after the stroll. "This wasn't one of those. I was actually able to feel in the present, something I've never been able to feel before. It just makes me feel that good things are possible."

About a dozen counter-demonstrators greeted the marchers, but they too remained silent, merely waving "Down With Thich Nhat Hanh' signs.