Non-profit director Katherine Davies is walking from London to Geneva delivering messages of peace from the public to the special envoy responsible for the United Nations-brokered Syrian civil war talks.
Throughout the negotiation process between the rebels and government officials loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, one element has been missing, the voice of ordinary people, who desperately want peace, says Davies.
That’s how she came to the idea to walk 600 miles from London to Geneva over a period of five weeks, collecting messages along the way as part of her Message for Peace campaign.
She started the walk March 15, the fifth anniversary of the Syrian crisis, and now has one week left to complete her journey. The Daily Caller News Foundation interviewed Davies while she was in Paris en route to Geneva.
Davies, founder and CEO of iguacu, a group focused on promoting effective giving, walks about 16-18 miles a day and has encountered a lot of hardship and obstacles along the way. As she noted, the walking route listed by Google Maps is rudimentary and unreliable, as sometimes the path places you on a highway, with large trucks honking their horns and cars spraying you with water.
“It’s not a smooth, straightforward walk,” Davies told TheDCNF.
Davies’s videographer and support driver travels in a motor home along the way. Sometimes, Davies sleeps in the motor home, and sometimes she stays in a bed and breakfast, so she can take a hot bath.
She doesn’t walk at night.
But despite the difficulties she’s faced, she thinks it important to bring attention to the plight of ordinary Syrians, many of whom are now refugees.
The war in Syria has dragged on for nearly five years, displacing virtually half the population of the entire country, resulting in the deaths of approximately 250,000 people and sparking the massive refugee crisis that has engulfed Europe.
“Everyone is really touched by Syria, and it’s making me feel even more certain – it makes me feel how important this conflict is,” Davies told TheDCNF. “There is no public voice there in Geneva. There is no collective expression there. People are very disturbed—the fact that it’s gone on for so long.”
Along the way, she’s made contact with lots of different people who support her campaign. Many of them have posted on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #message4peace.
She’s compiling the messages to take to Geneva and wants people to know they have the power to affect positive change.
“This is an issue that disturbs a great many people, so why aren’t we present?” Davies said. “There is power in the public voice, and so far there’s been no pressure. That’s what’s missing. There’s a serious and powerful role the public can play.”
“There’s a sense of powerlessness about global issues like this. But there are things you can do.”
The campaign comes at a time when Europe is struggling to deal with the aftershock effects of the Syrian war. Over a million refugees have entered Europe in 2015, and public anxiety is soaring.
But Davies says a lot of the anxiety is based on simple misunderstanding.
“There are a lot of misconceptions. Almost half of the refugees in Europe are fleeing the crisis,” Davies said. “Many refugees are well-educated. Many hope to go back to their country when the war is over.”
Davies emphasized the peace campaign is entirely non-political. It’s about peace, not whether Assad should or should not step down.
“Nothing can move forward until there’s peace,” she emphasized. “We stand with the Syrian families who are desperate for the bombs to stop by keeping the message simple: pressure for peace. It’s something the world can get behind.”
Once she gets to Geneva, Davies will deliver the messages and continue to monitor exactly what’s going on and report back information to people who have signed up for the campaign.
“We’ll be looking for ways to add pressure,” she said.
The negotiations began Friday in Geneva between the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which represents rebel forces, and delegates from the Assad regime. HNC said while it will consider bringing in bureaucracts from the Assad regime, those with blood on their hands must be excluded from future government positions. Assad has said he will not step down. The peace talks are continuing as the ceasefire in Syria frays at the edges, especially in the city of Aleppo.
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