7 events: Bicton, Binalong Bay, Boronia, Brisbane, Geelong, Melbourne, Triabunna
Bicton, Australia: report by John Bowkett
The 2013 SOPP program held in Bicton, a southern suburb of Perth, took place on the afternoon of May 19 at the beautiful venue of the Point Walter Golf Club, with approximately 50 peaceful souls in attendance. The land upon which the club is situated is important to the female indigenous Australians in the area, and it holds a strong yet gentle feminine energy.
Our MC for the day, Maryanne Butler, opened the program and, together with Robyn Maher, gave a Welcome to Country and explained the significance of the land where our ceremony was being celebrated. The lighting of the Peace Candle came next, with Eva Szauter reading the prayer called “Prayer for the Oneness of All Living Things”. The candle was lit by Elaine George, whose enthusiastic energy had played a great part in putting this year’s program together. The ceremony was accompanied by the angelic voice of Christine Morrison singing her own composition, “Light Candles for Peace”.
A spiral was made by arranging a hemp rope in the form of a helix upon the grass to replicate the spiral used in a ceremony in England in 2006 in which a special rock was gifted to Maryanne to bring back to Australia, creating a worldwide link.
‘Honky nuts,’ or ‘gumnuts’ (the seeds of the native gumtree) had been enthusiastically collected from the nearby native bush by the young children attending the program and placed alongside the hemp rope to emphasise the shape of the helix. Silently and reverently, participants picked up flags, and led by MC Maryanne Butler carrying the sacred stone, they entered the spiral while offering up personal prayers. The flags of all the countries of the world were taken into the centre and out again, forming a moving mandala as Eva and John read each country’s name and prayed, May Peace Prevail.
A beautiful sense of unity and togetherness was created by this ceremony, and Maryanne spoke of the importance of peace coming from within through the acceptance and celebration of difference.
We had afternoon tea, with a spread of teas, coffees, lavender biscuits, cream cakes, damper (unleavened bread—a traditional bush food in Australia) and dips. Mandalas were made available to complete or take home, along with copies of the interfaith prayers.
After the break came the prayers from different faiths and spiritual traditions. Six prayer leaders shared songs, stories, traditions, and prayers for peace, and a number of the attendees shared special stories that touched the hearts of all. Our prayer leaders were:
Alison Green (Baha’i)
Fasida Razak with daughters Hana, Kamsani and Nurul Syakinah (Islam)
Lee Eshel Rubinstein (Judaism), who beautifully sang a Jewish peace song
Rev. Mrs. Paramjeet Thandi (Sant Nirankari Mission)
Susana Ethel de Pereda (Christianity)
John Bowkett (Buddhism)
To close this segment, the group from Sant Nirankari Mission were to sing “The Jurisdiction of My Love,” but a technical hitch necessitated us to move outside so the accompanying music could be played on an automobile sound system! This change in location allowed the opportunity for us all to join in the song with a backdrop of the natural bush setting, bathed in the light of the late afternoon sun, and to dance a circle dance as the choir continued singing. This took place in the same location as the earlier sacred spiral flag ceremony.
All moved back inside for the presentations of gifts to our principal speakers; to sing the John Lennon song “Give Peace a Chance”; for our participants to share information of any future peace events; and for the sharing of a closing prayer, “Creation of the Universe”, once again read by tireless peace worker Eva Szauter. The group from Sant Nirankari Mission kindly prepared and handed out some very tasty curry and rice to all of our participants as they moved out of the venue.
For me, the most wonderful part of our event was having people from so many different ethnicities, religions and creeds all blending together with such natural ease to make an elixir of love, joy, harmony and peace. What a privilege it was to be part of the 2013 Symphony of Peace Prayers, and to have the opportunity to meet and work alongside such champions of peace! Thank you everyone for your sharing and caring of the message May Peace Prevail on Earth!
Binalong Bay, Australia: report by Rosalind Gregg
On a soft, sunny day, we were surrounded by flowering wattles and bird song as our ceremony commenced. A gentle labyrinth walk found us chanting “Shanti, shanti (peace, peace)” and praying for world peace as we reached the centre, focusing on a unity of hearts and minds around the earth—and being grateful for the many blessings we were sharing this day.
The intention continued as we shared in the flag ceremony through a beautiful video which took us around the world. Ilona then recited prayers from different faiths. It was a gentle reminder of our oneness with all peoples and faiths of the earth, and our unified desire for peace.
Our hearts continued to open as we shared a meditation to cleanse and polish our inner beings in order to become clearer channels for world peace.
We completed our beautiful ceremony as three individuals finding a greater awareness and understanding of our unique pathway to becoming clearer channels for our service to humanity. As Lucy said, “It was a blessing to be an instrument for peace! It was so soft and sweet; lovely heart sharing.”
Boronia, Australia: report by Alison Clarke
My husband Brian and I offered prayers for peace on May 19, to join with the energy being sent out at Fuji Sanctuary and around the world.
Brisbane, Australia: report by Babs O’Connor
On Sunday, May 19th at 11 am (local time) at our home, my friend Judith Anderson and I started our SOPP ceremony with the prayer May peace prevail on Earth. We then continued with prayers from seven major faiths (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism). After this we performed a flag ceremony using small, hand-made flags which I made at our Geelong retreat in 2011.
Judith had prior engagements and left shortly after this. However, I continued on until 2 pm performing wordless prayers with spiritual breathing, as well as reciting expressions of gratitude to nature and light-filled words, and then sitting quietly reading Masahisa Goi’s words and meditating. It was a beautiful, sunny winter’s day, and I truly felt connected, not only with Fuji Sanctuary, but with all of humanity! This feeling lasted for several days, and I feel it had a real and positive effect on me and all I came in contact with.
Geelong, Australia: report by Jenny Funston
A gloriously sunny autumn day welcomed this year’s SOPP held at the Grovedale Community Centre near Geelong. The morning was spent decorating the hall, creating a space of peace, tranquillity and welcome. Once again, many members of the Geelong Interfaith Network, the local Byakko satellite group, and general public joined us to send waves of positive thoughts around the world.
Participants were greeted at the door, and were presented with a small, colourful organza bag containing symbols of the elements—a stone, shell, feather, and tea-light candle—and an inspirational verse from either Masami Saionji or Masahisa Goi. They were then invited to choose a flower, which they would offer as a silent prayer a little later in the program.
To begin, we welcomed the guests and acknowledged the ancestors and traditional custodians of the land. We held a ceremonial lighting of the World Peace Flame, and then used an electric flickering light for the rest of the program, as no open flames are allowed in the hall. This flame represented the flame of love that burns in our hearts and the oneness of us all. It is a universal symbol representing humanity’s combined aspirations for peace.
A few of the participants performed a wordless prayer with spiritual breathing. The awesome tones resonated throughout the hall, bringing a sense of honouring all that exists, and setting an energy of peace. Next, we had prayers from many faiths and traditions—Islam, Universal Peace Federation, Baha’i, Hinduism, Judaism, Christian Spiritualism, Brahma Kumaris, Unity, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, and a prayer from the Deakin University Chaplain. Each presenter placed their flower in the vase before sharing their prayer. Other participants were then invited to offer their individual prayer through the medium of a flower, filled with the love from within their hearts. Placed together, these festive flowers created a powerful symbol of humanity in all its beautiful variety. Finally, we offered a shared prayer, called “Our United Prayer to Honour the Sacred of Many Names,” which was compiled from many different prayer traditions. I really love this part where, in unison, we honour all who pray for peace.
Next, Allison Finlay read Masami Saionji’s message for the 2013 SOPP, bringing her words to life. Then, the Baha’i Children’s Choir blessed us with their voices once again this year. Unfortunately, at the last moment, their leader/guitar player couldn’t make it, so they bravely got up and sang unaccompanied, doing a great job for a very young group! We presented small gifts and certificates of appreciation to the prayer leaders and members of the children’s choir, all graciously received.
Our World Peace Flag Ceremony is always a joy. Silvana’s description for this year was ‘organic’. What she meant was that it really did flow in a very individual way, as participants joined and re-joined the flag waver line, including one in a wheelchair! We managed to collect all the flags in three big cane baskets, overflowing with vibrant colour and energy. It really did look spectacular at the front of the stage at the end of the ceremony!
Following the flag ceremony, we sang our ‘Peace’ song, made up of the word for ‘peace’ in many different languages, with a simple, repetitive tune composed by Silvana many years ago. Those who have attended our ceremony in past years joined in enthusiastically, singing with gentleness and compassion. We then shared Masami Saionji’s prayer “Oneness,” and then Liz McPherson read “Creation of the Universe”, which was read during the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary.
To close the celebration, we all stood in a circle with joined hands while Silvana lead us gently and quietly in a global peace meditation, focusing on all the countries of the world, honouring their existence and all that dwells therein, revering nature and ourselves as conduits of peace. Infinite gratitude was expressed to all who had joined in this celebration of oneness, and especially to those who had brought it to fruition. A delicious afternoon tea was served, with many tasty morsels from different cultures!
One of our satellite members is in Los Angeles at present, visiting family, and she held her own individual celebration. She wrote to say that she held prayers and a meditation at a nearby beach.
Melbourne, Australia: report by Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson
For the first time, the Heartlight Centre for Conscious Living and Wellbeing hosted a Symphony of Peace Prayers at the Ivanhoe Uniting Church in Melbourne. The church supports many community events that include interfaith and reconciliation organizations, as well as individuals or groups who promote and celebrate peace within our homes, our institutions, our cities, our countries, and our world.
33 people attended the event and 15 faiths were represented by prayers and ceremonial candles that were lighted on behalf of each tradition or faith. Richard Williams, from the Wiradjuri people of New South Wales, graced us with a didgeridoo performance, and acknowledged the Traditional Landowners of the land of Australia.
As co-directors of the Heartlight Centre, we took a few moments to honour and remember Uncle Reg Blow, an aboriginal Elder who participated in the Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremonies in 2010 and 2011, not only representing the Traditional Landowners of Australia, but also serving as an ambassador for the interfaith movement. As an Elder, Uncle Reg put forth years of dedicated service in the Indigenous community, including various roles in government and community-run organizations. With patience and compassion, he taught people about Aboriginal spirituality in an effort to heal emotional wounds and cultivate dignity and pride where it had been lost. As chairperson of the Centre of Melbourne’s Multi-faith and Other Networks organization, Reg was the first Aboriginal person to preside over an interfaith group in Australia. His work in indigenous affairs was recognized with an Aboriginal of the Year award in 1995. He passed away in late 2012, just a few weeks after he was inducted onto the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll. It was a privilege to know him.
The acknowledgement of the Traditional Landowners that Richard offered was the same as that offered by Uncle Reg in two previous SOPP ceremonies. We include it here because of its power and beauty and its support for harmony with nature and peace with those who have paved the way before us.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this Land we stand on.
We acknowledge our ancestral spirits and our elders past and present.
We call upon our ancestors to be with us and support us in our celebration and ceremony today.
After the acknowledgement, Richard shared some wonderful memories of Uncle Reg and played the didgeridoo for all of us to bathe in the beauty of the Dreamtime. He raised up his didgeridoo from the floor and played it towards everyone seated in the church, and the music wafted right into our hearts. We could feel the vibrations of the land and the spirit of the aboriginal people who have been stewards of this land for thousands of years. Many of us were moved to tears and felt as though we had been elevated to another level of awareness and communion with all life.
Another prayer offered was from the Native American people, and it also supported our prayers for harmony with nature and our ancient mother, the earth:
O Great Spirit of our Ancestors, we raise our pipes to you, to your messengers the four winds, and to Mother Earth who provides for your children.
Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, to respect, and to be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace in mind.
Let us learn to share all the good things that you provide for us on this Earth.
Let us know peace.
For as long as the moon shall rise, For as long as the rivers shall flow,
For as long as the sun will shine, For as long as the grass shall grow, Let us know peace.
Besides the prayers, the lighting of candles, and the message from Masami Saionji that was read aloud, we also were addressed by the President of the Banyule Interfaith Network, Mr. Shaaban Elbaset. He explained that he wanted to co-found the interfaith group in order to create an opportunity for people of different faiths and cultural groups to meet and learn from one another in a spirit of dialogue and peace. The Banyule Interfaith Network recognizes that each group has a unique faith or cultural story and as such, has a unique value for our society. Its purpose is to both celebrate each unique story and the diversity that it brings to us all, and to identify common threads and themes in our stories that may be the basis for unity.
The two of us also make music together (we are known as Heart & Soul), and we performed several songs including “Ancient Earth”, “Brotherhood with All Life”, and “An Instrument of Peace”, based on the Prayer of St Francis.
At the end of the ceremony, everyone was invited to stand and sing “May Peace Prevail on Earth” as they proceeded into a nearby hall, creating a circle. We offered some last words of gratitude, and then everyone enjoyed some refreshments and the mingling of like-minded and like-hearted souls.
Triabunna, Australia: report by Tom Teniswood
This year we celebrated the SOPP at “The Village”, a community centre in the Tasmanian coastal town of Triabunna. This centre has been ‘in the making’ for ten years, and we felt it appropriate to celebrate with a peace pole planting as part of our ceremony.
We were delighted to have so many people present, and were particularly thrilled to welcome our friends from Holy Tantra Jin-Gang-Dhyana Buddhism in Hobart, who added not only colour but deep symbolic ritual.
Kris Schaffer opened the ceremony with an acknowledgement of all the Indigenous Peoples of the world and talked about the need to conserve and nurture our natural environment. Then, Judy, one of our long-time volunteers, lit the World Peace Flame.
The Holy Tantra Jin-Gang-Dhyana Buddhists presented their Doctrinal song “Light of the Universe—Universal Great Harmony Ritual”, a chant lasting ten minutes or so which seemed to give everyone a great sense of calm and peace. Some of the younger people present were particularly moved.
Instead of having presentations of other prayers, we asked those present to write their peace prayer or message on a piece of paper, which could be placed in a capsule or directly into the ground with the peace pole. There was a period of silence before the participants were invited to bring their prayers and messages forward to the peace pole.
Some of the younger participants were asked to plant the peace pole, which they did with great earnestness, and later told me how special that moment was for them. The languages on the pole are Japanese, English, the local Indigenous language and French. Why French? This was to acknowledge the early French exploration of our coast and the amicable contact they had with our Indigenous people.
The successful planting of the peace pole was celebrated and blessed by the Holy Dharma Lion Dance ritual, presented by the Holy Tantra Jin-Gang-Dhyana Buddhists, which was a great surprise and joy for everyone. This ritual has several components, starting with a purification before the lions make their entry. Everyone was invited to ‘dot’, with paint, the eyes of the lions so that they may ‘see and rise to greater heights’ and bring prosperity to the area. This was done in silence and with great seriousness. Then, accompanied by a very loud drum, the lions danced and leapt high into the air!
Following this, we prayed for peace in each country and region, with all the participants carrying flags and saying prayers for each country. We also had flags from several indigenous communities and regions which were included in our prayers. The flags were placed around the peace pole, which not only made for a colourful sight, but represented our prayers and thoughts for the world.
To conclude, everyone was invited to enjoy refreshments in The Barn, our community gallery and meeting space. Since the SOPP we have noticed a more positive outlook and feeling of respect in our community. To everyone who participated, our infinite gratitude.