6 events: Binalong Bay, Geelong (2), Melbourne, Perth, Triabunna
Binalong Bay, Australia: report by Lucy Lewandowski and Rosalind Gregg
Greeted by the sweet smelling spring freshness of tatami mats in Ros’ dojo and the warmth of six friends, old and new, joining in prayers for peace, we sat in heartfelt meditation offering up our prayers to the universe for world peace. Holding the little flag cards helped us to feel grounded and be present, and connected us to the different countries. A soft rain fell outside, cleansing the earth.
We shared lunch and laughter, and took away a sense of connected purpose and harmony to spread peace among all humanity. It was a peace- and joy-filled two hours. It was especially lovely to share our prayers with two beautiful young souls from Japan. We send many blessings of gratitude to all who contributed to this beautiful ceremony.
Geelong (Grovedale), Australia: report by Jenny Funston
Our SOPP this year, at the Grovedale Community Centre near Geelong, was the easiest we have ever known it, and the most joyful, peaceful, and inclusive in its energies of love, compassion, and sharing. Over 50 people attended in total, all intent on emanating love, and many of whom were new to the ceremony. Many of the regular participants couldn’t come this year for various reasons, so we thought we would have a very small gathering, but in the end people kept turning up, which was a delight!
I began by talking a bit about the SOPP, emphasizing that it is all about love, and I asked participants to keep love flowing in their hearts as they brought forth prayers of kindness and compassion for all humanity. We then honoured the ancestors and custodians of the land, and lit the World Peace Flame, representing the flame of love in our hearts that brings us together.
Our prayers took a few forms at this year’s ceremony. The first was an activity called ‘Kindle Kindness Quilts,’ in which we wrote prayers on the squares of a patchwork quilt. Each participant received a square of fabric on which they wrote a prayer of love from their heart. Then, they passed the square to the next person, who read what was written and wrote a new prayer, until each square was filled up with four prayers. This worked very well, and people seemed to find it a gentle, nurturing way of sharing individual prayers. At the end we put all the squares together to create a quilt of oneness.
This activity led into all of us praying in unison the ‘United Prayer to Honour the Sacred of Many Names’—a prayer composed of prayer words from many different faiths and spiritual traditions. It is a powerful way to say to one another: ‘I respect your belief, I acknowledge our sameness and our differences in oneness, and I thank you for the sharing.’
After this, Bishop Peter Danaher of the Anglican Church gave a heartfelt short talk entitled ‘Living Our Faith in Everyday Life.’ He even taught us a little song, and his words to us were also interspersed with humour. We read Masami Saionji’s message for this year’s SOPP, and then we had a beautiful group of guest prayer presenters from the following faiths and traditions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Spiritualist Christianity, Hare Krishna, and Universal Peace Federation.
One of our highlights this year was dance performance by the Geelong Bollywood dance troupe from Deakin University—PhD research students, an IT specialist, and others—plus their families and friends. The energy they generated was electric, and the room was alive with smiles and laughter. Straight after this we began our flag ceremony to pray for peace in each country. With the presentation of each flag, we all said together, May peace be in (name of country). It was totally joyous! We closed the flag ceremony with the singing of Belinda McArdle’s song “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”
To complete the ceremony, we read Masami Saionji’s ‘Prayer of Oneness,’ and then held a Global Peace Meditation, with everyone seated in a circle around the peace pole and flags, focusing our attention on all the countries of the world and honouring their existence. From there, we progressed to and enjoyed afternoon tea, savouring delicious food from various traditions, kindly brought along with many guests. After the ceremony I received some wonderful comments from participants and guests, including the following:
“I would like to thank you from the core of my heart for organising such a wonderful event. I truly believe that it’s only because of people like you praying for a good cause somewhere on this earth that humankind still exists, despite our endless cruelties to our Mother Earth and Nature. Thanks once again for giving us an opportunity to be a part of that special afternoon.” (Monica Puri, Hare Krishna prayer leader)
“I felt completely at home at the SOPP. I had the best time with you all, on so many levels. It was great to be welcomed so warmly. Thank you to everyone. The preparation time flowed so smoothly and felt very coordinated. The main event was a joy to be part of, with a wonderful feeling of unity and participation. It is great to see an organization that lives by its principles. The whole day had a feeling of peace, love, harmony and oneness.” (Anda McMillan)
Geelong (Newtown), Australia: report by Robynne Mahoney
I was unable to attend the ceremony in Grovedale, so I held my own connection with the SOPP at my home in Newtown, outside Geelong. My ceremony was quiet and flowed gently from one thing to the next. I offered universal prayers for peace, and did a private flag ceremony to pray for peace in each country. In closing, I blew out the candle I had lit and used my gifted eagle feather to send all the prayers and energy gathered out to the world. It was quiet, but heartfelt.
Melbourne (Burwood), Australia: report by Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson
On Sunday, May 18, Unity of Melbourne Church hosted a Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony and re-dedicated its peace pole, which was gifted to the church by one of its members, Rev. Gloria Grace Wallace, in their 2010 SOPP ceremony. The peace pole has now been planted in the Peace Garden on the grounds of Unity, which is a New Thought spiritual centre in Burwood, Victoria, Australia.
For many years, Unity has been hosting interfaith events organised and supported by Rev. Sylvia Eriksson, the Associate Minister, and Rev. Bill Livingston, the Minister at Unity of Melbourne. Rev. Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson, members of Unity and co-directors of the Heartlight Centre for Conscious Living, facilitated the ceremony, offered musical songs for peace, and introduced Byakko Shinko Kai and the Symphony of Peace Prayers. Unity also hosted a pre-ceremony potluck luncheon to which participants were invited, giving everyone an opportunity to meet and greet one another.
52 people attended the Symphony of Peace Prayers 2014 at Unity of Melbourne, and 20 different faiths, traditions, and interfaith organisations were represented by prayers offered and ceremonial candles lighted on their behalf.
Richard Williams performed the Welcome to Country at the start of our ceremony, with the acknowledgement of the Traditional Landowners of the Land of Australia. Everyone was embraced by the music of the didgeridoo, played by Richard, who is from the Wiradjuri people of New South Wales. We were privileged that Richard was able to join us again this year for the ceremony.
In addition to the prayers, the lighting of candles, and the reading of the message from Masami Saionji to all SOPP participants around the world, the ceremony also included two guest speakers. Rev. Sylvia spoke to us about the importance of the interfaith movement to world peace and of the commitment to the interfaith movement at Unity of Melbourne. She spoke with great conviction about how embracing the true essence of one another’s faiths and traditions is at the very heart of peaceful coexistence and a peaceful future for us all.
The second speaker, Ven. Bhikkhu Buddha Dhatu, explained the meaning of Wesak as a sacred time celebrated by Buddhists throughout the world, and of his world peace mission, entitled Heart for Peace. He has travelled barefoot through 45 countries in the past 18 years on behalf of peace and the teachings of compassion.
Other special guests included the Baha’i Choir, Perfect Chord, newly formed last year under the direction of Lorraine Manifold. Their performance was wonderful and inspiring in its offering of musical messages for peace.
Rev. Gloria Grace also led the Benediction Dance from the Dances of Universal Peace, in which everyone was invited to learn both the song and the movements. This dance is based on the prayer by Hazrat Inayat Khan, who brought International Sufism, an interfaith movement, to the West in the early 1900s. The words of the prayer are: May the blessings of God rest upon you, May God’s peace abide with you, May God’s presence illuminate your heart, Now and forever more.
At the conclusion of the dance, everyone was invited to stand and sing the song “May Peace Prevail on Earth” as they proceeded together out of the sanctuary and into the Peace Garden, creating a circle around the peace pole. Richard played the didgeridoo directly into each of our hearts as we bathed in the new rays of sunlight bursting through the cloudy sky. It was majestic and very moving.
After we proceeded back into the sanctuary in silence, we expressed gratitude for everyone’s support and participation, and said final farewells over cups of tea. The occasion was unifying, uplifting, and sacred. After the ceremony we received many wonderful comments from guests and participants, including the following:
“It was such an inspiring ceremony for me, to pray for peace among people of all faiths and see that such is possible in today’s world of petty differences and ugly fights among various religions as well as ideologies.” (Hamid, Zoroastrian prayer reader)
“[The SOPP ceremony] was a wonderful experience. I think what I took from it was a strong feeling of meaning—something our part of the world can be short on—and also, the opportunity to do this for the planet, and what a unifying experience that was. I truly think it is time for us all to embrace the earth as our mother, to see ourselves not just as citizens of a city or a country, but of the planet.” (Dianne Lennon, Sikh prayer reader)
“It was truly an honour to participate and share in the diversity of faiths that came together to express their own beautiful individuality of peace. The Unity of Melbourne venue resonated throughout the day in the highest vibrations of unconditional love and unconditional peace.” (Daniel Wurf, Peace Architect)
“I found the air of the day filled with the best of intentions. Each person there represented the light of a different perspective on spirituality, but each was shining in the same direction. We’re all climbing the same mountain, and while we each take a different path to the summit, it’s always encouraging to remind ourselves we have the same goal.” (Blayne Welsh, Baha’i prayer reader)
Perth (Bicton), Australia: report by John Bowkett and Elaine George
“A wonderful interdenominational celebration for world peace” are the words one of our guests used to describe this year’s Western Australia Symphony of Peace Prayers, which was once again held in the Eagle Room at the Point Walter Golf Club in the Perth suburb of Bicton. The adjoining land is where the local Noongar Aboriginal women came together to conduct ‘women’s business,’ and it holds a strong yet gentle feminine energy, perfect for spreading the vibration of peace and love to our world.
This year’s SOPP was special in the way many individuals came together to build a kaleidoscope of prayers for peace on earth. It was a lovely day of creating, meditating, praying, rejoicing, singing and dancing. The setting up of the venue was a beautiful event in its own right, with members of the different faiths coming together to set up the musical equipment and the table for the flags of the world, while outside children and parents took baskets and collected ‘honkey nuts’ from the adjacent bush to create the spiral for our flag ceremony.
The Eagle Room was transformed into a backdrop for peace, with posters lovingly prepared by members of the Universal Brotherhood Mission, multicoloured ribbons, the Earth Flag, and doves of peace. Two tables were set up—one with two powerfully beautiful Persian calligraphy works of art, the other providing a sacred space for our peace pole, globe of the world, last year’s peace candle and this year’s candle, which our dear friends Trisna and Armiti obtained during a recent visit to Bali, Indonesia, and donated to us.
It felt as if the process of setting up the space was, in itself, an expression of the founding initiatives of the Symphony of Peace Prayers. The stage having now been set, the celebration began—and what a celebration of unity it was! M.C. Maryanne welcomed the participants, and then the peace candle was lit by two of our original and very strong supporters, Fazida from the Muslim faith and Sam from the Baha’i faith, by taking a flame from the 2013 candle to the awaiting peace candle for 2014.
Caroline, from Brahma Kumaris Australia, led us into a beautiful peace meditation, gently accompanied by Arman playing the setar (a Persian stringed instrument). From the Muslim community, two delightful young ladies, Hana and Najat Kamsani, sang their prayer for peace, followed by Marjan, who shared her insight into the power of calligraphy and the place in history of Persian calligraphy in particular. Arman then sang two short songs and a spoke a poem accompanying himself on dotar (another Persian stringed instrument).
Manita from the Universal Great Brotherhood/Hovea Ashram then shared her wisdom and thoughts on peace, and Buddhist nun Le Teresa played a CD of music and words composed by herself in Vietnamese, having first given an English translation of the words of her song. Our own delightful Eva then gave a reading and an introduction to Byakko Shinko Kai and the Symphony of Peace Prayers initiative.
Although rain was forecast, the weather remained fine and allowed us to go outside to carry out the flag ceremony and send prayers of peace to the countries of the world. Once again the 194 flags were carried by more than 60 participants and paraded through the ‘honkey nut’ spiral, accompanied by Maryanne playing her flute. Many birds joined this ceremony by noticeably raising their voices in bird song while the words May peace prevail in (name of country) were prayed by Eva and John as the flags were placed in the waiting containers in the centre of the room.
One minute of silent reflection followed, guided by Lisa from 11 Principles, who added the beautifully moving musical notes from her set of five crystal bowls. The tea break was then announced, during which Lisa continued to play her crystal bowls and was unexpectedly joined by one of the participants. Another beautiful expression of spontaneous unity!
Following the tasty and joyfully interactive tea break, the program continued with ladies from the Universal Brotherhood Mission sharing a song about the breaking down of ‘the wall’ (of division) to allow harmony for all. The head of the Mission, Pummy Ji, shared a prayer and conveyed her thoughts on peace. Lisa then spoke about ‘The Medicine Way,’ which is based on Native North American wisdom.
Hillary, from the Baha’i faith, gave her thoughts and shared a prayer, and Pastor Rodney (Protestant Christian) gave his offering towards peace on earth. Following this, Maryanne, our MC, played a composition in honour of a very dear departed friend and peace worker. Participants were then invited to share their own thoughts and prayers, with a highlight being one participant singing a chant in Sanskrit.
The ceremony then closed in a kaleidoscope of colour, music, and dance, with the male group from Universal Brotherhood Mission performing a Bangarra Dance with much athleticism, joy, and enthusiasm. During their encore, all present enthusiastically joined this talented dance troupe in joy and unity. Our sincere appreciation goes out to all who participated in making this such a wonderful day!
Triabunna, Australia: report by Tom Teniswood
As has become the custom for us, our ceremony really began on Saturday evening, when 11 of us, including our guests Richard Littlefeather and partner Leannon, gathered around the outdoor fire at Wind Song, our home and retreat centre. Here, we acknowledged the traditional owners of the land, our Aboriginal people, and those who have gone before them, and we invited the Spirit Ancestors to join us in celebrating the Symphony of Peace Prayers. Richard, a Native American, led us in some drumming, and then we listened to silence interspersed by the crackle of the fire, the thump of a wallaby moving around, and the calls of the possums waking up and emerging from their trees. It was a simple prelude to the following day, when we celebrated the SOPP at The Village in Triabunna, a 20-minute car ride away.
The weather on Sunday was a little unpredictable—somewhat cool and breezy, and there were some drops of rain, then sunshine! At the morning Market, I set up a computer showing the live broadcast of the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary, for all to see who wandered by that morning. It proved to be a very popular point of interest and touched the lives of many who did not attend the actual SOPP ceremony during the afternoon.
Richard Littlefeather opened our ceremony, calling on all of us to offer our prayers for peace in all countries, in our communities, and in ourselves. In his welcome, Richard acknowledged the indigenous peoples of the world and honoured the four directions, with Leannon and Barb Gardam drumming to each direction.
We were pleased to welcome back to Triabunna members of Holy Tantra Jin-Gang Dhyana Buddhism from Hobart, whose doctrinal song, “Light of the Universe, Universal Great Harmony Ritual,” brought a great sense of peace and calm, allowing us to join the Global Peace Meditation with open hearts and minds.
As rain threatened, a slight change to the program brought on some loud drumming and the Holy Dharma Lion Dance, a ritual to bring peace and prosperity to our community. Part of this ritual is the ‘dotting’ of the eyes of the lions so they can ‘see and soar to greater heights.’ Beth Bennett, a popular member of our community and strong supporter of our peace ceremonies, had the honour of performing this task, which she did with great reverence.
During the ceremony, people were asked to write their prayer or message of peace on paper, which was then placed in a capsule to be buried at the foot of the peace pole. Added to the capsule were messages from our friend in Japan, Tomoko Ukai, who had sent gifts for our celebration. Masami Saonji’s message to SOPP participants was read by Jane, and I thought it interesting that some people who had never experienced the SOPP or heard of Byakko Shinko Kai asked me for copies of the message.
After this, we held our flag ceremony to pray for peace in each country, which got everyone involved. As there were several people who had participated before, all went very smoothly, with a rhythmic, dance-like movement. We were using small flags, which were arranged around the peace pole, and as each group of 14 countries was completed, a resounding May Peace Prevail on Earth rang out.
It was great to have some young people present who really got involved, contributing their messages of peace and also adding to our Community Mandala. It is always a great privilege to convene the SOPP in our local community. Each year the ceremony changes in some way and achieves a momentum of its own. Each year our great task is accomplished perfectly, and our vibrations continue resonating in infinite harmony to all humankind.