Circles of Silence – Solidarity Action

The Circles of Silence movement originated in Toulouse, France in 2007 among Franciscan groups in an effort to express solidarity with people seeking asylum and immigrants experiencing injustice and who were being silenced.

Circles of Silence are an effective and easily adaptable activity. They can involve anywhere from a handful to hundreds of participants and can take place in schools, churches, and large public spaces. Conducting a Circle of Silence is one way to engage people with the concerns of people seeking asylum, and encourage reflection and discussion about the treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum in our communities. Through Circles of Silence we have an opportunity to express support for people seeking asylum, and renew hope for participants through the ritual.

How are Circles of Silence run?

Circles of Silence have a loose structure, allowing space for individual interpretation and expression depending on the particular location, number of participants and context of the ceremony. At its essence it involves participants standing in a circle of silence in a public space for half-an-hour, with a person on the outside handing out flyers or explaining to the public what is happening. We’ve included a couple of extra ideas you might also want to consider.

If the Circle is organised in a public place, it is helpful to have a large banner or sign to indicate the purpose of the ceremony, and volunteers on the outside to distribute information or answer questions from members of the public, who should be encouraged to join the silent protest.

Planning your Circle of Silence

When designing your Circle of Silence, you might consider:

  • Beginning with a personal testimony of a refugee or migrant about their experience
  • Beginning with a reflection, prayer or relevant passage
  • Having participants hold candles during the Circle
  • Having participants tape their mouths during the Circle
  • Having a range of posters, signs or placards can be help by participants or displayed around the circle
  • Printing flyers to hand out in public
  • Having the circle for 30 minutes to one hour
  • Concluding the Circle with another text, passage or hymn

Who is this action for?

This action can be tailored to suit a range of different groups – students in the school yard at lunchtime, a parish in their local community after mass on a Sunday, a Catholic organisation in their office courtyard or even a parish social justice group outside the offices of the Immigration department.

Free resources you can use

Some fliers you can use to hand-out while completing this action.

Some examples of what a Circle of Silence looks like: