9 events: Cornwall, CT; Croton Falls, NY; Gardena, CA; Hollywood, FL; Iowa City, IA; Oakland, CA; Sandpoint, ID (2); Seattle, WA
Cornwall, Connecticut, United States: report by Pamela Beasley
It was a beautiful sunny day here in Cornwall, where we prayed together on May 18th. There were eight of us, and some travelled quite far to be part of this day. Praying for each country in the world was so uplifting and joyous! Several of the people were attending for the first time and remarked that it was truly inspiring, especially knowing that we were connected around the world with others praying at the same time for peace to manifest on earth!
Croton Falls, NY, United States: report by Rev. Deborah Moldow
Sunday, May 18 was a most auspicious day for the Chapel at Croton Falls! In the early morning, the renowned Indian master Sri Tathata concluded his unique weekend program with special prayers and an initiation that left the sanctuary filled with rose petals, rice, fruits, and the light of awakening souls. Two of the singers traveling with him, Yaëlle and Meerabai, stayed to grace us with their lovely bhajans (Hindu devotional songs).
I began by welcoming everyone and introducing the event and its theme, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” All those attending (about 40 people) had a printed program that included Masami Saionji’s message and the written prayers of the various presenters. Following a beautiful hymn to love by Yaëlle and Meerabai, I invited Native American medicine man Bear Walker to contribute a peace prayer in his Anishinabe language, which he chanted while drumming, raising the energy level and helping us feel our connection to the earth.
Our next guest was very special indeed: Maitreyi Amma had come from France to be here when Sri Tathata visited New York. She explained quite touchingly how much it meant to her family when the Americans came to liberate her country in 1944, and she felt that at last she could return the gift with her gratitude by bringing Sri Tathata to America. She recited the Gayatri Mantra as her prayer of peace.
A Sufi prayer was then presented by Rev. Melanie Gambino, who also led everyone in a simple version of the graceful Sufi meditative dance, turning toward our hands to the right and the left. Then our beloved rabbi, Rav Shoshana Mitrani Knapp, explained the roots of the Hebrew word shalom (peace), which everyone chanted together, and noted that the heart of the Jewish tradition is to bring the divine energies to earth. Our pastor, Rev. Dr. Hans B. Hallundbaek, was ecstatic with gratitude for all the blessings in the Chapel. He led us in the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, noting that the new Pope had taken that very name—a good omen for peace to come.
It was then time to introduce three Byakko members, from New York City and Los Angeles, who had come to present special wordless prayers with deep breathing. One of them, Ms. Mitsuyo Miyazaki, also presented a spoken prayer of Gratitude to Nature, and the participants recited it with her for ten different elements of nature.
Yaëlle and Meerabai sang another inspiring song, which I had translated from the original French, in a lovely musical interlude. It was then time for our prayers for peace in each country and region. I invited Angelica Cubides, Peace Representative for the World Peace Prayer Society, to place a lit candle in the center of the floor. For the first time in the Chapel, we made a flag mandala as we prayed in turn for every country of the world. We were accompanied by Miriam Zernis, a member of the Chapel’s interfaith team, who had written a special “May Peace Prevail on Earth” musical chant.
The flag ceremony was performed with great sincerity and heartfelt prayers. Several of those taking part had never seen such a ceremony before. Rav Shoshana was visibly moved—she was due to preside over an event that afternoon but did not want to leave during this powerful experience. And Meerabai immediately asked whether she could organize such a ceremony in her region of France!
The event closed with photos around the flag mandala, and then the weekend was completed with a celebration dinner with Sri Tathata as the guest of honor. It was a day of great light, a day to remember.
Gardena, Calif., United States: report by Tatsuo Ide
On May 17, the Los Angeles branch of Byakko Shinko Kai hosted its second SOPP ceremony at our dojo in Gardena. Our ceremony began at 1 pm local time, five hours before the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary opened.
I began by greeting everyone, and then we enjoyed watching the video about the 2007 SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary. Immediately, the energy of Fuji Sanctuary, which could be felt from the images on screen, warmly enveloped the dojo, reaching each of the participants.
Then, Rev. Nobuharu Uzunoe from the Konkô Church of Gardena, who also joined our ceremony last year, presented a prayer for peace from the Konkô tradition, which has its roots in Japan. The participants joined wholeheartedly in reciting this prayer. After the prayer, Rev. Uzunoe gave a brief talk in Japanese. “World peace,” he said, “is in our hearts. When a feeling of gratitude always dwells in our hearts and we pray for the whole world with a feeling of peace, world peace will come about.” His message was very impressive, and resounded with divinity.
Next, a member of Byakko Shinko Kai spoke in English about the significance of the SOPP. After this, all the Byakko members present formed a circle and performed a special wordless prayer with deep, harmonious breathing. The reverberations of deep breathing made it feel as though we had slipped into a different dimensional space.
After a short break, Ms. Michiko Abe gave a performance of two traditional Japanese dances. As the dance commenced in tune with the lovely melody, the participants quickly gave her their full attention.
Then, we moved on to our flag ceremony. Participants entered from the left and right sides and presented the flags one by one at the front of the room. Michelle, our MC, read the name of each country, and everyone prayed in a loud voice, May peace be in (name of country). May peace prevail on Earth. Also, many participants requested to carry certain flags, so that gave the ceremony all the more energy. At the end, the children present enthusiastically carried the Earth flag. Throughout the flag ceremony, I was deeply moved by the sublime oneness of all participants as they prayed with one voice for peace on earth.
Keeping this poignant atmosphere, everyone formed a circle and held hands as we sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Then, Michelle offered some closing words, which were followed by thunderous applause, and our dojo was filled with deep emotion and blissfulness. Everything was accomplished with great success. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our guests, members, and all participants.
Hollywood, Florida, United States: report by Roz Reich
It was our good fortune that the SOPP coincided with our Brahma Kumaris Third Sunday World Meditation Hour gathering in Hollywood, Florida. You were celebrating 10 years of service, and are to be congratulated. We were celebrating one year of monthly service at this downtown public park called ArtsPark, and were delighted with our progress.
We hosted a gathering of 74 souls under balmy breezes. The weather could not have been better. We began with a half hour session of Qigong with a teacher named Halima instructing approximately 25 attendees. Etta Stevens, instructor of the Hollywood Library meditation class for the past eight years, welcomed the participants. Roz Reich, director of the Hollywood meditation groups at local libraries, introduced the Symphony of Peace Prayers project and turned the program over to Kevin Cage, who transported the participants, one and all, into an elevated spiritual stage of peace with his poetic verbal images. His commentary was so outstanding that we recorded it all and posted the 29-minute video on YouTube (http://youtu.be/k88kFmuLeLc). In addition, a video slideshow of the event can be viewed at http://youtu.be/97qCDMHp8uQ.
We could go on and on talking about this magnificent event. It was our honor to be one event in the ‘international constellation,’ and thank you for all the work you are doing for world peace.
Iowa City, Iowa, United States: report by Chiyomi Prasithrathsint
Six people gathered at the Pure Light Healing Center in Iowa City on May 18 and held a gathering to connect with the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary.
We prayed for peace in each part of the world by regions, using flag cards—11 regions comprising 197 countries, all the indigenous lands, and at the end, all the other regions of the world. Iranian, Thai, and Japanese participants prayed in their native languages. After a minute of silence for peace, I demonstrated two wordless prayers with deep breathing.
Ms. Leslie Hollis, the representative of the center, a practitioner of Kolaimni (a Native American healing practice), and a Reiki master, said that even though we were a small group, our sincerity and prayers for world peace were very powerful, and it seemed that peace was flowing out of our small space into the ground and out into the world. At times, some overwhelming emotions were felt and eyes became teary as the names of certain countries were called out loud. Ms. Hollis also expressed her gratitude for having this peace prayer ceremony brought to Iowa City. I strongly felt that we had planted a seed of light in Iowa City.
Oakland, Calif., United States: report by Kai Neptune
The Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony in Oakland was held on May 17, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. 30 guests gathered at the beautiful space we rented from InterPlay, an organization that teaches movement and dance for social change.
After starting with an introduction, we had five different religious representatives who led prayers, followed by a prayer ceremony for peace in each country, with everyone holding national flags. We ended with a drum and dance session.
Everyone said that they felt very happy afterward. One participant commented: “I thought it was wonderful, and I was surprised at how many countries there are!”
Sandpoint, Idaho, United States (2 events)
Cynthia’s Preschool and Kindergarten: report by Cynthia Mason
On May 16th, 10 preschoolers, a teenager, and 3 adults participated in sending prayers for peace at our preschool/kindergarten. We began by using a singing bowl and our voices in ‘sound yoga,’ to ground and balance our intentions to send out the healing, loving energy of peace on earth. We went outside, where our peace pole is planted and performed a wordless prayer for peace on earth.
We then came inside and chose five countries on earth that are in extreme distress and showed the children where these places are on the globe. We also looked at the flags of those countries. We then did the wordless prayer for peace in each of those countries.
Performing wordless prayers of gratitude to nature is a regular part of our school day. We also talk about the power of words and feel the healing vibrations from our singing bowls. The children are nurtured and nourished by these daily practices.
Thank you for uniting humanity in this common goal of peace on earth.
Gardenia Center: report by Keiko Lewis
In Sandpoint, Idaho, 13 people including a lovely baby girl performed prayers for peace at the Gardenia Center, where a peace pole was planted eight years ago. Prior to the gathering, the baby’s mother, Jessie, and I painted some little stones with bright words and placed them in the peace pole garden.
Michele Monetta led the group as we united our hearts with sound of a Tibetan bowl. We stood under the cherry tree in the garden, surrounding the peace pole as we sent out our loving prayers and said May Peace Prevail on Earth seven times. In turn, each one of us expressed gratitude toward nature. A light breeze flowed gently through the cherry blossoms, which started falling down, touching us graciously. We felt at one with nature and Mother Earth.
Seattle, Washington, United States: report by Nao Valente and Lisa Kawahara
The Symphony of Peace Prayers was a blessed event in Seattle on May 17. Before the event, our group of five members from the Seattle chapter of Byakko Shinko Kai arrived early to set up the national flags and refreshments. There was excitement in the air and it was wonderful to hear the musicians and singers from Gaia’s Temple warm up while we prepared for the event.
It was the first year for this event in Seattle, so it was with great interest and anticipation that we awaited our attendees. About 50 people attended. The Reverend Karen Lindquist of the Interfaith Community Sanctuary was the emcee of our event. The Gaia’s Temple singers opened the ceremony with a beautiful song, and then we performed two wordless prayers.
The spiritual leaders then each spoke in turn. The first was Squiqui Ray Williams of the Swinomish Tribal Council. He spoke of the shift of the world during this next year and his participation in ceremonies around the world involving world peace. He also offered a traditional Native American song. The next speaker was Cherag Michael Douglas of the Mevlevi Order of America and Sufi Order International, who also spoke of world peace and presented a chant that the participants joined in with. The third speaker was the Rev. Judith Laxer of Gaia’s Temple, who spoke about Mother Earth and the healing of people and of the earth that is needed with respect to world peace. The final speaker was Shonin Kanjin Cederman of the Nichiren Buddhist Temple, who offered a rousing blessing over the flags to elevate and clear the energy.
The flag ceremony was performed next. Everyone in attendance participated. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm and conviction with which everyone recited the peace prayers for each country. Candles were lit for each country as we prayed for peace, and ‘heartbeat’ drumming was performed along with the peace prayers. After we had prayed for each country, the group formed a circle to pray for other regions of the world.
It seemed that no one wanted to leave the wonderful circle that had been formed, and so we had more songs, prayers, and announcements, including a Native American song where we shared the musical phrase “I See You.”
Afterwards, three of the speakers asked to participate in the Symphony of Peace Prayers next year. Several audience members were impressed with the flag ceremony and expressed their wish to hold the ceremony in schools. When we finally concluded, refreshments were enjoyed and the participants talked and shared with each other. It was a fun and spiritual event for all, with much energy and love sent towards peace prevailing on earth!