Praying with the Religions of the World

Next, an international group of prayer leaders were welcomed on stage at Fuji Sanctuary for the first major program of the ceremony, known as Praying with the Religions of the World. This unique program, in which prayer leaders from different faiths and spiritual traditions lead participants in peace prayers of their own choosing, represents the SOPP’s core message of acceptance and harmony among faiths in the unified pursuit of world peace. The act of people from different religious and spiritual backgrounds joining in one another’s prayers for peace is deeply significant and sends a powerful message.

Prayer leaders from seven world religions were introduced on stage, joined by Mrs. Masami Saionji, Chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai. Each prayer leader addressed participants with a brief message before commencing his or her prayer.


Mr. Humayun A. Mughal (Islamic Sufism)

Mr. Humayun A. Mughal, an Islamic Sufi spiritual leader, is a descendent of the Mughal imperial family. At age 11, under the guidance of his father, Mr. Mughal learned to commune with the spiritual world, and he attained an awakening through healing prayers.

In 1984, he graduated from Islamabad University with a major in Japanese language, and the following year, he was invited to study in Japan as part of an international exchange program. He studied psychology at Kyushu University. As the head of an Islamic culture study group, he gave talks and held other activities on Islamic Sufism, often appearing on live television.

Mr. Mughal has worked in Japan as a journalist, critic, interpreter, and facilitator of televised discussions on cross-cultural topics. He has presided over various groups, such as Japan and Pakistan Cross-Cultural Exchange, New Hope Fukuoka 21, Fukuoka English Speaking Society, and two NGOs: Japan Peace Service and United Peace Foundation Pakistan. He has also authored several books, including Islam and Japan (Japanese, Bungeisha Publishers) and Let Me Come to Pakistan (English, Pakistan Fiction House).

Mr. Mughal was a prayer leader in the 2008-2009 and 2011-2013 SOPP ceremonies at Fuji Sanctuary.

Good morning. As-salamu alaykum everyone.

This is my seventh time to come here for the Symphony of Peace Prayers. I am very thankful to Mrs. Masami Saionji for the work she is doing. She is a wonderful lady and a great spiritual leader, leading people to pray together for the peace of the whole world. This is the only place I have been in Japan where people pray together with their heart and with their conscience, and where they pray in the language of each country. It is really amazing.

We should not pray only for ourselves—we should pray for our family, we should pray for our nation, and we should pray for the peace of the whole world. When we listen to music, the music comes in and goes out again—it doesn’t affect us greatly. But when we pray, we need to listen with our mind and with our heart. The Japanese language is very spiritual. There are different words to describe ‘listening,’ and each has a different power. It is difficult to explain in English, but I encourage people watching around the world to study Japanese!

Today, we will pray together with our heart. First, I will do the azan, or call to prayer, and then we will pray together in Japanese. Let us quiet our hearts, and please ‘hear’ this call to God with your mind and heart.

Call to Prayer
(sung by Mr. Mughal in Arabic)
God is Greatest.
I bear witness that there is not reality, but one reality.
I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of God.
Come, come to prayer.
Come, come for your highest spiritual enlightenment.
God is greatest.
Nothing exists separate from God.

(spoken by all in Japanese)
Dear God, parent of all humanity,
Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest).
Today, we pray together for world peace.
First, I endeavor to improve myself.
I pray for my own happiness.
I pray for the happiness of my family.
I pray for the happiness of my relatives.
I pray for the happiness of my people.
I pray for the happiness of my fellow citizens.
I pray for the happiness of my country.
I pray for the happiness of all the countries of the world.
I pray for the happiness of the earth.
I pray for the happiness of the universe.
I pray for the happiness of God.
I pray with all my heart that all humanity may live in peace.
May peace prevail in the universe. Amen.


Fr. Franco Sottocornola (Christianity – Catholicism)

Fr. Franco Sottocornola was born in Bergamo, Italy on June 7, 1935. In 1952, he entered the Saint Francis Xavier Foreign Missions Society. He studied Philosophy and Theology in the United States from 1952 to 1959, and was ordained a Priest of the Catholic Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1959.

He then went on to obtain a Doctorate in Philosophy in 1962 from Saint Thomas University in Rome, and a Doctorate in Theology and Masters in Liturgy from the Catholic University of Paris in 1972.

Fr. Sottocornola arrived in Japan in 1978, and studied Japanese language, culture and religions. In 1987, he established the Shinmeizan Center for Interreligious Dialogue in the town of Nagomi, Kumamoto Prefecture, with the cooperation of Ven. Furukawa Tairyu, head of the Seimeizan Schweitzer Temple in Tamana.

He currently serves as a Consultor of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and of the Subcommittee for Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan. He has taught Philosophy and Theology at the Xaverian Theological Institut of Parma, Italy, Liturgy at the Elisabeth University of Music in Hiroshima, and Japanese Culture and Religions at the Kagoshima Immaculate Heart University in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture.

From 2013 to 2015, the Catholic Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the most important event of her recent history. The following message on world peace is a quotation from its final document, “The Church in the Modern World.”

 “In our generation, when human beings continue to be afflicted by acute hardships and anxieties arising from ongoing wars or the threat of them, the whole human family has reached an hour of supreme crisis in its advance toward maturity. Moving gradually together and everywhere more conscious already of its oneness, this family cannot accomplish its task of constructing for all, everywhere, a world more genuinely human, unless each person devotes him/herself with renewed determination to the reality of peace…

Consequently, as it points out the authentic and most noble meaning of peace and condemns the frightfulness of war, this Council fervently desires to summon Christians to cooperate with all in making secure a peace based on justice and love, and in setting up agencies of peace.

Peace is not merely the absence of war. Nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies. Nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called ‘an enterprise of justice’ (Is. 32, 7)…

But such is not enough. This peace cannot be obtained on earth unless personal values are safeguarded and human beings freely and trustingly share with one another the riches of their inner spirits and their talents. A firm determination to respect all other persons and peoples and their dignity, as well as the studied practice of brotherhood, are absolutely necessary for the establishment of peace. Hence, peace is likewise the fruit of love, which goes beyond what justice can provide…

For this reason, all Christians are urgently summoned ‘to practice the truth in love’ (Eph. 4, 15) and to join with all true peacekeepers in pleading for peace and bringing it about.”

Therefore, let us pray for the gift of mutual love, without which there may never be true peace in our world: Lord grant us the gift to love one another!

 A Prayer for True Love: The Way to True Peace (spoken by all in English)
(adapted from the Holy Bible, First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, 12:30-13:13)
I will show you a still more excellent way (the way of love).
Lord, our God, grant us the grace of true love.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Lord, our God, grant us the grace of true love.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Lord, our God, grant us the grace of true love.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Lord, our God, grant us the grace of true love.
All merciful God, grant us the Spirit of love, so that we may love one another with the same love with which you love us. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.


Rabbi David A. Kunin (Judaism)

Rabbi David A. Kunin, a native of New York, USA, is the rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan. He is a graduate of Brandeis University with a degree in Medieval History, and of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he was ordained as a Rabbi and received an MA in Judaic Studies.

Rabbi Kunin has served communities in Glasgow, UK; Elmira, NY, USA; San Diego, USA; and Edmonton, Canada. He is a strong believer in the importance of good and harmonious relations between people from diverse religious communities. Interfaith relations have therefore been a continuous mark of his rabbinate. He served as the Chair of the Southern Tier Interfaith Coalition in Elmira, NY, where he created the Walking Together program, and was a longtime board member and president of the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action. He received the Alberta Centennial Medal in recognition of his community work.

Rabbi Kunin speaks widely on Jewish History, Mysticism, and Israel. He also focuses on issues of understanding between different religions and traditions.

Good morning. It is my pleasure to be here on this beautiful day under Mount Fuji and to join with you in praying for peace. Peace is a basic right of all that lives. In Judaism, it’s enshrined in the concept that all are created in the image of God. Hopefully, someday, through our prayers and works, the blessings of peace will embrace the entire world.

Prayer for peace (spoken by Rabbi Kunin in Hebrew)

May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world. Then nation will not threaten nation and mankind will not again know war. For all who live on earth shall realize we have not come into being to hate or to destroy. We have come into being to praise, to labor and to love.
Compassionate God, bless the leaders of all nations with the power of compassion. Fulfill the promise conveyed in Scripture: I will bring peace to the land, and you shall lie down and no one shall terrify you.
I will rid the land of vicious beasts and it shall not be ravaged by war. Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream. Let the knowledge of God fill the earth as the waters fill the sea. And let us say: Amen.

(spoken by all in Hebrew)
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be accepted unto you, o Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
May the One Who Makes Peace in the heights make peace for us, for the household of Israel, for the household of Ishmael, and for all humankind. And let us say: Amen.

Rev. Masahito Ishikawa (Shintoism)

Rev. Masahito Ishikawa is Chief Priest of Kumano Shrine in Kanagawa Prefecture. Born in 1952, he graduated in 1975 from the Shinto Faculty of the Department of the Japanese Literature at Kokugakuin University. In the same year, he obtained his Shinto priest qualification and was appointed at Kumano Shrine. Two years later, he was appointed as Chief Priest of Kumano Shrine as well as 21 other Shinto shrines, and also as Director of the Kumano Folk Museum.

In 1987, Rev. Ishikawa became President of the Kanagawa Shinto Youth Organization. In 1989, he was appointed as part-time lecturer in the Literature Department at Kokugakuin University (which he retired from in 2003), and also as Ceremony Lecturer for the Kanagawa Shinto Shrine Association. In 1991, he was appointed as Vice President of the National Shinto Youth Council.

Rev. Ishikawa is currently on the Board of Directors of the Kanagawa Association of Shinto Shrines and serves as the head of the Yokohama Northern District office. He also serves as Chairman of the Kanagawa Association of Religious Organizations, and is a Trustee of the Okura Institute for the Study of Spiritual Culture.

As I was driving to Fuji Sanctuary on the highway today, I was guided by Mount Fuji, and I felt very thankful for this day and for the mountain. I am very happy to be here and to pray together with all of you. This is my third time attending the Symphony of Peace Prayers. In previous years, I was a guest, and this year I was very surprised to be invited to be a prayer leader on stage. I thank you very much for this opportunity.

Now, I would very much like to pray for world peace here at Fuji Sanctuary, together with all these people who believe in the power of prayer. From the bottom of our hearts, from the pit of our bellies, let us pray with loud voices for peace on earth.

Prayer for peace (spoken by all in Japanese)
As we view the towering Mount Fuji—a mountain treasured throughout the world—with admiration and praise, we gather in the bosom of this sanctuary, enveloped by the mountain’s divine presence.
Across this wide world, people hold a variety of faiths, and yet all of them alike aspire to attain world peace. Conflicts break out in the West, in the East, and in every part of the world, and they spread and go on without end. It is indeed the height of sadness.
However, we who gather in this place firmly believe in the power of prayer, and we will always live in harmony with the people of every country of the world. Even when apart, we will be on good terms with each other, we will naturally respect each other and nurture a deep understanding of each other.
Whoever we are and whatever our circumstance may be, we continue to work for peace in our own way, for it is deeply inscribed in our hearts that this is how we carry out the divine will.
Merciful gods of heaven and earth, we seek your grace in awe, to allow us to manifest forthwith a world as serene as the morning calm over the ocean, and to live in true happiness, where people forgive each other, support each other and smile at each other.
O, gods of heaven and earth, cleanse and purify us.
O, gods of heaven and earth, protect and bless us.


Mr. Katsuyuki Shimamoto (Buddhism – Sôtô Zen)

Mr. Katsuyuki Shimamoto is the 15th chief priest of Ryûkôzan Seisuiji Temple in Osaka Prefecture. Born in Osaka in 1937, he obtained a Masters degree from Komazawa University. After that, he studied Buddhist teachings at Eiheiji temple, the main temple of the Sôtô Zen Buddhist sect.

Mr. Shimamoto currently heads the organization Somonkai in Osaka prefecture. He is on the board of directors of the All Japan Aikido Federation, and is chairperson of the Osaka Prefectural Aikido Federation. He is a master teacher at the Toyonaka Seisenji Temple Aikido school, and holds a level 8 ranking. He teaches Aikido at about ten different places in Osaka prefecture, and regularly holds seminars in 17 countries outside Japan, mainly in the Netherlands.

As a religious leader and as an individual, I am deeply grateful for the honor of being invited to participate in today’s ceremony here at Fuji Sanctuary, to pray for the peace of the world and the happiness of all humanity and all of creation.

The distinguished prayer leaders gathered here today each have their own prayers, consisting of different words and different forms. I would like to present to you a practice called zazen, which is a method of prayer using the body and mind. This silent prayer will co-resonate with the sincere intentions of the dignified prayers that you have offered here, and the harmony of these prayers will form a great symphony. Though on the surface it may be quiet and still, I am confident that it will resound like thunder throughout the great universe.

While I am engaged in zazen, please insert a silent pause in your prayers. Before and after practicing zazen, I will stand and recite the prayer words. I would be very pleased if you would join me in reciting these words. Thank you very much.

Prayer for peace (spoken by all in Japanese)
I surrender all to the Buddha.
May people experience the great teachings of Buddha and awaken their minds to supreme enlightenment.
I surrender all to the Buddhist teachings.
May people attain great wisdom like an ocean through a profound understanding of the scripture.
I surrender all to the community of Buddhist monks.
May all people gather in harmony and experience a perfectly free and unobstructed state of mind.

(Mr. Shimamoto and participants engaged in silent meditation for one minute.)

I pray that the good deeds I’ve done bring good fortune to everything that exists in this world.
May all people and all creatures great and small work ceaselessly, day after day, in a spirit of love for everything in existence.
All-knowing Buddha, existing everywhere in space and time!
Honorable bodhisattvas!
The ultimate wisdom which has been accomplished!


S.S. Sada Anand Singh Khalsa (Sikhism)

S.S. Sada Anand Singh Khalsa came to Japan for the first time in 1968 as an American college student for a summer exchange between Stanford and Keio Universities. It was the height of the antiwar movement in Japan, and he became involved with the peace group Beheiren, participating with Japanese people of all backgrounds and ages in the streets of Tokyo in demonstrations for peace. This experience changed his life’s direction in many ways.

He returned to the United States and studied yoga and meditation. His teacher, Yogi Bhajan, was a master of Kundalini yoga and meditation and was also the most prominent Sikh leader in the West. Mr. Khalsa became a Sikh and a Kundalini yoga teacher. He lived in a Sikh Dharma Ashram for twenty years in California, practicing yoga, meditation, and devotional chanting.

In 1989, Mr. Khalsa returned to Japan and has been teaching Kundalini yoga and meditation throughout Japan, as well as training new teachers. He established a beautiful retreat center on Ikoma Mountain in Nara which is open to all groups practicing yoga, meditation, budô, peace and environmental work, or other spiritual practices. He also runs a company importing organic foods and Yogi Tea, the Ayurvedic herbal tea brand founded by Yogi Bhajan and now owned by the Sikh Dharma group.

S.S. Sada Anand Singh Khalsa was a prayer leader at the 2013 Symphony of Peace Prayers.

It’s great to be here again. I am very grateful to be here, to see these beautiful people, and to be a guest of Byakko Shinko Kai.

Many people are talking about peace today, and all religions talk about it, but unfortunately, peace is not widespread in our world. We are here with many beautiful people in a beautiful place, but many people, in their daily lives, are lonely, unhappy, and not peaceful. Basically, we are living in a world with a lot of stress.

We live in the land of Japan, which has a long history, where spirit was seen everywhere, in every object. Japanese have practiced Shintoism for many thousands of years, and Buddhism as well. We had harmony with nature, three or four generations living together, and everybody bowed with respect to everybody else. The food was organic, grown close to home, and life was valued each day as a precious and limited asset. People bonded naturally with their neighbors and formed communities.

But now, things have changed—all around the world, and even here, in our lovely island home. In our modern society, tens of millions of people are living in one-room apartments, and they don’t know any of their neighbors. We have so much stress and overwork and financial pressure that people die from it. We have millions of people who never leave their room. We have huge pressures, we have suicides, and now we have the threat of nuclear radiation, sickness, and even death. It’s a difficult and challenging time.

Today, we’ll practice a meditation using three words—Love, Peace and Light. Try to really feel it within you and all around you, and then you will bring it into your life.

(With background music playing) Take a deep breath in, and let a deep breath out. Take another deep breath in—letting in lots of new energy. Inhale, hold your breath a little, exhale. Once more, inhale, exhale, inhale…

Prayer for peace (spoken by all in Japanese)
Love before me
Love behind me
Love to my left
Love to my right
Love above me
Love below me
Love around me
Love within me
Love to all
Love to the universe

Peace before me
Peace behind me
Peace to my left
Peace to my right
Peace above me
Peace below me
Peace around me
Peace within me
Peace to all
Peace to the Universe

Light before me
Light behind me
Light to my left
Light to my right
Light above me
Light below me
Light around me
Light within me
Light to all
Light to the Universe

Thank you very much. Sat nam.


 Ms. Shantisree Goswami (Hinduism)

Ms. Shantisree Gosawmi was born in Assam, India, the biggest tea producing region in the world. She received her Masters degree in Political Science from a national university in the city of Baroda, State of Gujarat.

In 1976 she joined the Ministry of Commerce of the Government of India and was posted to the Tea Board of India. In 1977, she was posted to the Embassy of India in Japan, on secondment, for the promotion of Indian tea in Japan. During her posting in Japan, she spread awareness of Indian tea through TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines.

In 1981, she resigned from the ministry job, and since then has been actively involved in creating and promoting her own brand of imported tea, called Shanti Tea, and also works as a teacher at various culture institutes and as a tea consultant. Since 1999, she has operated Indian restaurants in Tokyo and Kanagawa, for the benefit of IT engineers coming to Japan from India. Further, by organizing Indian festivals, she participates in and contributes to cultural exchange between Japan and India.

Namaste. I am Shantisree Goswami from India, and I will be leading the prayer from Hinduism. Hinduism is a religion of love and humanism. You will find the word ‘Mangalam’ repeated in the prayer. It means ‘tranquility and well-being.’ I would also like to mention that the first part of my name—Shanti—is the Sanskrit word for ‘peace.’ Now I will begin my prayer.

Sarva Mangalam (spoken by all in Sanskrit)
May there be tranquility on the earth
May there be tranquility in the water
May there be tranquility in fire
May there be tranquility in the wind
May there be tranquility in the sky
May there be tranquility in the sun
May there be tranquility in the moon
May there be tranquility on our planet
May there be tranquility in all living things
May there be tranquility in the body
May there be tranquility in the mind
May there be tranquility in the spirit
Tranquility of all
May that tranquility be everywhere and in everyone.
Om, Peace Peace Peace

Next, Byakko Chairperson Masami Saionji led participants in a poem and prayer called Creation of the Universe, which was first introduced at the 2011 Symphony of Peace Prayers. Mrs. Saionji spoke the prayer alone once, then invited participants to pray with her. Before presenting the prayer, she offered a few words to participants and guests:

It is with great joy and gratitude that we have gathered here today to commune in prayers for peace offered by all of you, representing the religions of the world. I was able to experience, through all of your prayers, the importance of our oneness of heart, the respect that we have for each other, and especially our unity in our wish and desire for peace. I thank you all for being with us today.

Creation of the Universe (spoken by all in Japanese)
When we quiet our mind and pray, we feel the prayerful life of all living things.
Our prayers become the energy of love and healing, embracing the Earth, humanity, and all living things, and bringing all back to life.
The creation of a new planet Earth begins.
Even when human beings forget to pray, the earth, the seas, the mountains, and all living things go on praying
For the time when humanity will awaken.

When we quiet our mind and pray, we feel the prayerful life of all living things.
Our prayers become light, illuminating the divinity in each and every human being.
At that time, the Earth, humanity, all life and all living things become one,
And a new symphony of life resonates with the Universe.

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