8 events: Cooperstown, NY; Cornwall, CT; Croton Falls, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Sandpoint, ID (3 events); Seattle, WA
Cooperstown, NY, United States: report by Chiyomi Prasidthrathsint
This year, due to uncertain weather, we held our prayer ceremony indoors, at Carefree Gardens, the nursery and cafe in Cooperstown where the mandala we created last year was put on display. Kristen and Dana Leonard, who run Carefree Gardens, helped with many aspects of the event, from gathering participants to carrying out the program.
A new friend of mine had brought flag cards from Japan, and joined in the peace prayer ceremony with us. About 45 people participated, and their voices blended together to create a wonderful ceremony. I gave a short speech, which concluded with the prayer May peace prevail on Earth, which we recited in Japanese, Spanish, and Hindi as well as English. After a minute of silence, we sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” with guitar accompaniment. We also had a peace pole sent especially for this day. Overall, the event was a great success!
After the ceremony, a participant from the nearby town of Milford told me that they had a peace pole at their home as well, which they had purchased. Another participant asked where they could make a donation to help support this movement. I am so grateful to all the participants for their enthusiasm and their heartfelt desire for peace.
Some days later, a minister who has been involved with us for the past two years invited me out to dinner to thank me for organizing the ceremony. There, I ran into Kristen Leonard, and she happily told me that she had received a lot of emails from people who said that the ceremony was great, and they would like us to do it every year! I feel certain that we will be holding more SOPP events here in Cooperstown in the future!
Cornwall, Connecticut, United States: report by Pamela Beasley
There were four participants in the SOPP event held here in Cornwall, Connecticut. Together we prayed for peace in each country in the world while holding the flag of that country. After completing this, the participants remarked how powerful it felt to pray for each country of the world and to be able to connect with all the other participants worldwide. When we looked upon the flags after the ceremony, everyone said how beautiful and bright each flag appeared to them. What a joy to join with others with the same powerful intention of envisioning peace among all peoples.
Croton Falls, NY, United States: report by Deborah Moldow
A beautiful Symphony of Peace Prayers was held on Sunday, May 19 at the Chapel in Croton Falls, NY. The service opened with a welcome by Rev. Deborah Moldow, Interfaith Minister, who is also the Representative to the United Nations for the World Peace Prayer Society. Rev. Deborah declared that our experience of unity during the Symphony of Peace Prayers would start us on a new path for all humanity.
Following the format of the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary, representatives of diverse faiths offered prayers from their own tradition, while those gathered (about 40 participants) joined in reciting the prayers as printed in the program.
Grandmother SilverStar (Native American) opened with an invocation to the Four Directions, followed by an Elk Song, a prayer sung with rattles and drums. It was unique to have printed words to help people sing along.
Rev. Deborah called on the presenters according to the age of their tradition. With no Hindu representative present, she recited the powerful Gayatri mantra, with everyone joining in the final “Om, shanti, shanti, shanti.”
Caren Ellis Fried, a member of the Unity Made Visible cooperation circle of the United Religions Initiative, presented a Jewish prayer as call and response. She spoke about peace from the perspective of the inclusive Jewish worship community of Romemu in New York City. She also remarked that one week earlier she was at a Sabbath dinner where she met a young woman named Neshama Carlebach, daughter of famed Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and Neshama said she would be offering a Jewish prayer at the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary! Caren was delighted to say she would be part of a local program. What made it even more special was that both Deborah and SilverStar had seen Ms. Carlebach on the live stream from Mt. Fuji the night before!
The next presenter was Naomi Schmidt (from South Africa), meditation teacher from the Kunzang Palchen Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center, who had come from Woodstock to take part in the Symphony. Naomi is a gifted graphic designer, who has done much work with the World Peace Prayer Society, including the lovely report of the Symphony of Peace Prayers at the United Nations in February. She taught everyone a profound Buddhist breathing prayer called the tonglen—breathing in the suffering of others, and breathing out love, light and joy.
The Rev. Hans Hallundbaek (from Denmark), the pastor of the Chapel, which is a Presbyterian church, offered the version of the St. Francis prayer that Mother Teresa spoke when she visited the United Nations. All present declared themselves to be a channel of peace.
Sunera Rahman of the American Muslim Women’s Association (from Bangladesh) was thrilled to share the meaning of peace in Islam once again at the Symphony of Peace Prayers. She recited a prayer in Arabic, and then in English with everyone reading along.
Angelica Cubides (from Ecuador), a longtime Peace Representative of the World Peace Prayer Society, had attended the SOPP at the Chapel previously, but this time she had been invited to offer a prayer. A gifted healer and spiritual teacher, she led everyone in a deep and powerful prayer of gratitude. All prayed, Grant us the Holy Sounds to expand throughout the world the sacred tone ‘May Peace Prevail on Earth’—the Holy Symphony!
Into this expanded field of consciousness stepped two members of Byakko Shinko Kai, Mizuko Marume and Yuji Hiraiwa (from Japan), known to Americans as QP. QP first gave a brief talk about the Symphony of Peace Prayers, the miracle of presenting a Symphony of Peace Prayers in the United Nations General Assembly on February 14th of this year, and the great gathering planned for Fuji Sanctuary in 2015. He then spoke about and described the three different wordless prayers that they would perform—one for the individual self, one for humanity, and one to bring light to the United States of America. The room was filled with light as they performed these three prayers, with everyone silent in rapt attention.
Now it was time to stand in a circle and share the light with every country of the world through prayers for peace in each country. Each participant—starting with those born in other countries, which included England and Vanuatu(!)—took several flags and raised each one in turn, announcing the country name. Everyone said, “May peace be in (name of country).” Three prayers were said for the United States, as a former Marine raised the flag. Finally, with all the flags raised high and pointed toward Grandmother SilverStar holding the Earth Flag, everyone closed the ceremony with “May Peace Prevail on Earth” three times, and a long silence to hold the energy.
Chapel organist June Tompkins played “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and all the participants sang while holding hands and sharing a circle of love, light and peace. All commented on the beauty of the event and the powerful feeling of unity. Sunera Rahman said, “This feels so good I wish I could do it every day!”
Los Angeles, California, United States: report by Tatsuo Ide
In February of this year, a prayer like never before (where many religions and religious denominations were present to pray for peace) was realized in the United Nations General Assembly Hall.
Sympathizing with the holy wave of harmony and prayer that was transmitted from New York during the SOPP at the United Nations in February, we held our first Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony at the Byakko Los Angeles dojo on Saturday, May 18, simultaneously with the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary.
Thanks to the renovations made at the end of last year, the interior of the dojo was suitable for welcoming the special guests, with warmth from the wooden floor, the brightly painted walls, and the lit altar.
At 1 pm, I opened the ceremony with a commencement greeting, celebrating the realization of the first SOPP in Los Angeles, thanking all the guests and attendees, and conveying the history and significance of the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary.
Next, we watched Masami Saionji’s speech at the UN event in February. The energy of prayer within this speech, where people of different religions and cultures gather and pray for peace on earth, enveloped the dojo, creating a solemn atmosphere.
Then began our program of “Sermons and Prayers from Varying Religions and Religious Denominations.” Nobuharu Usunoe from Konko Church of Gardena was introduced. He first prayed in English, then talked about the importance of being grateful. His talk had much in common with the teachings of Masahisa Goi, and we were struck anew by the similarities of higher teachings.
Next, Rev. Hyun Chul Kim, with two monks from a temple near downtown LA, presented a Buddhist prayer in Korean. The sound of the wooden block and the harmony of the chanted prayer intermeshed, and all the attendees seemed enthralled, some praying with hands together, some praying with eyes closed. We experienced the resonance as if we were absorbed into the harmonies of the prayer, and all became one within the prayer.
The final prayer leader was Mrs. Ana Cuadrado from the Anglican Church of Christ. Mrs. Cuadrado is from Cuba, and she attended the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary in 2009.
She began by telling us from her own experience how to uphold one’s attitude towards world peace, and then presented her prayer in Spanish. Her soft, kindly expressions and speech emit a powerful energy of love that heals the people around her.
Takemi Sekido introduced a wordless prayer from Byakko Shinko Kai. The faces of those performing the prayer were solemn, yet expressed gentle hearts within. Although the prayer leaders all prayed in their own languages and spoke in their own styles, their prayers were in harmony with the surroundings and resonated beautifully as one.
Before moving on to the flag ceremony, we watched Hiroo Saionji’s speech at the same United Nations event. His speech commended the diversity presented in this ceremony, and gave us confidence that we can connect with the entire world.
We tried a new format for the flag ceremony. Facing the altar, the national flag bearers appeared from left and right alternately, waving the flags in front of the altar.
Smaller national flags were arranged in front of the altar, expressing the glory of world peace, and enhancing the solemnity of the ceremony. With accompanying music, the names of the countries were announced in alphabetical order, as their flags were presented. We prayed for 194 nations plus Taiwan, Tibet, and Palestine, and then the Earth flag was waved at the very end, representing “all the other regions of the world.”
The larger flags were then displayed in orderly fashion in front of a bright white wall, and the colorful flags brought a feeling of world peace to our hearts. The participants took each other’s hands and sang the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth” to close the ceremony. The very first SOPP in Los Angeles finished with applause and a great sense of accomplishment.
It was a wonderful and very special experience. I would like to express my deep gratitude and respect to all those who initiated this event and helped make it possible. Thank you very much!
Sandpoint, Idaho, United States (3 events)
Aikido Dojo: report by Barbara Fairlight
In Sandpoint, Idaho, we performed our prayers at the Aikido Dojo, a beautiful space created by a man who is dedicated to peace. The energy in the room was extraordinary, permeated with love. We felt connected to each other, our community, and the greater community at Mt. Fuji and throughout the world. It was clear that all of the participants felt joyful and grateful to be part of the SOPP.
Cynthia’s Preschool and Kindergarten: report by Cynthia Mason
In Sandpoint, Idaho we linked with the global energy for peace with a ceremony around the Peace Pole at our school, Cynthia’s Preschool and Kindergarten. I placed small rocks around our Peace Pole Garden and asked the children to stand behind the rock that attracted them. Then each child took a handful of apple blossoms and spread them around our circular peace garden. We set the tone for the event with the sacred vibration of a sound bowl. We then did sound yoga, sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and then offered two wordless prayers, one for nature and one for peace to prevail on earth. This ended the outdoor portion of our ceremony.
Each child then took the rock they stood behind inside, where we continued our ceremony by saying, “May peace prevail in (name of continent),” as we named them one by one. Then, we painted our small rocks with beautiful colors. After they dried, we wrote beautiful words on them such as ‘love,’ ‘peace,’ ‘harmony,’ ‘hope,’ and ‘light.’ We are going to take the rocks to our downtown area and place them in flower planters that are located on the streets outside of stores, for all to find.
Happy Hearts Country School: report by Hattie Goodman
Before the memories of that glad day dim in my minds eye, replaced by fresh visions of children dancing in the sun, let me recall here for you a de-light filled day in May!
For two weeks preceding the SOPP, the children of the Happy Hearts Country School in Northern Idaho began practicing their song, “Teaching Peace”. They each made two doves of peace out of paper—one to keep and one to give away to a new friend. The day dawned cloudy but warm, and the sound of birdsong filled the lilac-scented air.
At the appointed hour, the adults gathered around our pole of peace, creating a great circle of loving support. Into this circle came the children, with their voices raised in a song of: “Teaching peace / All around the world / One by one, in our work and in our play / We are teaching peace by what we do and what we say.” In one hand they carried earth balloons flowing on high, and in the other, their birds of peace. The parents joined us in the chorus.
After this, I gave a welcome address and described the significance of the ceremony. Being as the day was Pentecost as well as the day of the Symphony of Peace Prayers, we were able to speak of the white dove signifying the Holy Spirit and the doves of peace that held so much significance for the little children. We had a moment of quiet prayer, and a few parents and friends of the community gave their offerings. All in all, it was a true, simple symphony of peace.
We will look forward to continuing and developing this tradition each year, as our community strives to raise its voice in praying for peace the world over.
Seattle, Washington, United States: report by Nao Valente
On May 18, I held a flag ceremony with two other women in a room at the Seattle Center. The Seattle Center is the third most popular tourist spot in the city, and in 1996 the city of Seattle had a large peace pole dedicated there. In our gathering, we performed a wordless prayer with sounds and movements, and we offered prayers for peace in every country and region of the world. One young man from San Diego came over to us and was impressed with our message, and he decided to say May peace prevail on Earth with us. We felt that it was a very significant day for world peace.
The next day, May 19, four of us performed the same wordless prayer at the Interfaith Community Sanctuary in Seattle, with Imam Jamal Rahman and Reverend Karen Lindquist. Jamal Rahman attended the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary in 2007 and again in 2010 as one of the ‘Interfaith Amigos.’
About 100 people attended the service, and I also met many young Muslims at the Sanctuary this time. We had opening music by special musical guest Foday Musa Suso from the Gambia. Reverend Karen Linguist gave a speech and offered an opening prayer, and then we performed our prayer without words. Imam Jamal Rahman then delivered a message about ‘Honoring the Sacred.’ Jamal said at the beginning of his speech that the music we had heard and the prayer that we had performed were both sacred. Although they are very different, it is important to respect our differences. After the ceremony, some people told us that they felt a very strong power from our prayer and admired each movement.
Right after the ceremony, Jamal and Karen told me that they would like to have a full SOPP ceremony next year in Seattle. We will rent a large space, invite prayer leaders and have a flag ceremony. We are already excited about the 2014 SOPP in Seattle!