3 events: Faisalabad, Lahore, Multan
Faisalabad, Pakistan: report by Sr. Sabina Rifat
The Women and Kids Education (WAKE) Cooperation Circle of the United Religions Initiative held a program with women and children on the 18th of May, in solidarity with the peace prayers at Fuji Sanctuary in Japan. We read some inspiring parts of the message from Masami Saionji, and offered a special prayer for her efforts for peace. The children presented beautiful peace songs, dances, poems and prayers. They also offered peace prayers for the whole world with all their heart, and especially for Pakistan and Japan. It was a terribly hot day and we were without electricity, but we held the program outside. These children are from the poorest backgrounds. They were very happy to pray for world peace and be united with the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary.
The women of the WAKE Circle had a separate session together, which I led. They reflected on the message from Masami Saionji and how she is playing an active role in promoting peace, not only in her own country but for all the people of the world. The women also shared their difficulties, possibilities, and challenges in promoting peace. They prayed and had tea together, enjoyed being together, and said heartfelt prayers for all the people on earth.
Lahore, Pakistan: report by Sr. Sabina Rifat
The 2013 Symphony of Peace Prayers was celebrated by the United Religions Initiative Pakistan at the Peace Center in Lahore on May 19. TV Producer Muhammad Imran Tiwana was the chief guest. Ch. Zubair Ahmed Farooq, Global Trustee, and Mr. Shafqat Jalal from Sialkot were the guests of honor. Members of the Women and Kids Education (WAKE) and A Better Community for All (ABC4ALL) Cooperation Circles participated, including many school children.
The program began with interfaith prayers. Miss Nida Salwater led a prayer from the Christian faith and Ch. Zubair Ahmed Farooq led a Muslim prayer. Mr. Yuel Bhatti, Executive Secretary of the URI Pakistan introduced and reflected on the history the SOPP, describing the ceremony that was being held on the same day at Fuji Sanctuary. He also mentioned that Fr. James Channan OP and Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad had attended the Fuji ceremony in previous years. He explained that we have been organizing events here in Pakistan each year in solidarity with our friends at Fuji Sanctuary. That morning, in many churches in the area, prayers were offered in solidarity with the SOPP. Fr. James Channan OP, URI Regional Coordinator and Director of the Lahore Peace Center was at another event at Multan, where he celebrated the SOPP and offered prayers for peace.
Sr. Sabina Rifat, Coordinator of the URI Women’s Wing, read the message from Masami Saionji, in both English and Urdu, which was greatly appreciated. She then extended a warm welcome to all the guests, especially those who were attending for the first time. She also shared some of the achievements of the URI and the Women’s Wing.
Ch. Zubair Ahmed Farooq said it was great to be united with the world in celebrating the SOPP. He recalled the Second World War, when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and he asked participants to pray for the victims of those bombs. He noted that the URI Pakistan condemns such violence. We prayed for the peace of the world and especially peace in Pakistan.
Three students and the teacher from the ABC4ALL School in Lahore sang a touching peace song. The students also presented peace posters, and one recited a universal peace prayer: May peace prevail in our heart and mind! May peace prevail in our families! May peace prevail in our society! Let peace begin with me. May peace prevail in Pakistan! May peace prevail on Earth! The presentation was admired by the audience.
Sr. Sabina Rifat recited peace-filled poems from her book. Then, Samereen Iqbal led the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, which everyone stood to recite. Sehrash Yousaf recited a beautiful peace poem. At the end, we held a flag ceremony with the flags of each country. Sr. Sabina Rifat and Yuel Bhatti spoke the prayers for each country.
Muhammad Imran Tiwana, the chief guest, remarked that this was first time he attended a program of the URI. He said he was very much impressed to be part of the event and to be connected with the whole world. There is a great need for such events in Pakistan, he noted. We are facing so many challenges, such as poverty, a lack of education, injustice, and violence. Together, he said, we can make a difference. He remarked that ceremonies such as this should be held in every city and village in Pakistan. We concluded the event with some refreshments.
Multan, Pakistan: report by Fr. James Channan OP
On the 19th of May, an SOPP ceremony was held in Multan along with the launching ceremony of my new book, Muhabat Ka Rasta (Path of Love). In this joint ceremony there were over 150 participants from all walks of life, including university and college professors, lawyers, poets, religious scholars, human rights activists, promoters of interfaith dialogue, and staff and students from the Dominican Louis Hall and Pastoral Institute Multan.
I welcomed everyone with the following message: Today is a very special day for each of us as we offer prayers for world peace, peace in our families, and peace in our hearts. We join, in spirit, with the SOPP ceremony being held at Fuji Sanctuary in Japan, in which thousands of people from different religions are gathered and are offering prayers for peace. We join them, and we also offer prayers and express our heartfelt desire for peace and harmony in the world. I also emphasized that there is a great challenge to work for this noble cause, as we find much hatred, violence and militancy in the world. There is a need to end religiously motivated violence and there is a need to promote respect for people of different religions. I then thanked Mrs. Masami Saionji for the very moving message which she sent to the people in Pakistan. Her message was very meaningful and touching. In it, she wrote:
I can find no words to express how much I admire your peace-loving spirit. Year after year, since 2007, you have gathered together on this day to take part in this earth-healing event. Year after year, you have joined hands with people in Japan and all over the world in praying for peace—not only in Pakistan, but in all countries on earth! Even in the darkest of times, you continued, undaunted, to pray for peace and harmony among all people, all nations, all cultures, and all faiths. And now, thanks to your unshakable will for peace, a new light is dawning in Pakistan and spreading across the globe.
She then offered hope for a bright future for Pakistan—one in which there will be love and peace for all:
Pakistan has recently passed through a great turning point, and the country is facing a bright, new, upward path. You are the ones who made it possible! Your love of peace, your belief in peace, and your invincible prayers for peace have supplied the motive power for carving out a brightly shining future for your country and the world. Congratulations! How proud I am to be connected with each one of you!
I had watched the live broadcast of the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary earlier that day, and I shared this experience with the participants. The ceremony was very moving indeed, and it was great to see thousands of people gathered for the SOPP. It was amazing that people around the world could watch this ceremony live on the Internet. It was a marvelous experience indeed, and I felt united spiritually with the people at Fuji Sanctuary.
All the honorable guests, including Prof. Dr. Muhammad Amin, Fr. Rahmat Raja OP, Fr. Akhter Naveed OP, Dr. Salah Uddin Haider, Prof. Shaukat Mughal, Mr. Razi Uldin Razi, Javed Yad, Prof. Ms. Farah Raheel and Dr. Maqbool Gillani, as well as all the participants, were very much moved by Mrs. Saionji’s message, and also to know about the SOPP in Japan. All participants offered prayers for world peace together. After the SOPP program and book launching ceremony, a delicious meal was offered to all the guests.
My infinite gratitude goes to all those who are praying for world peace.