A Warm and Musical Welcome

By mid-morning, the sun was high in the sky, and some 10,000 people had gathered in the outdoor Prayer Field at Fuji Sanctuary to take part in the 11th annual Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony. Volunteers and staff welcomed participants, handing out program booklets and offering information. As they arrived, participants spent some time viewing an exhibit on the Fuji Declaration, which featured video clips with messages from the initiators and some founding signatories. There was also an exhibit of handwritten mandalas, as well as booths selling books and other goods related to the SOPP.

This year’s internet broadcast of the SOPP included live commentary provided by Ms. Caroline Uchima, from the World Peace Prayer Society’s Scotland sanctuary, and Mr. Ben Hart, from the Shift Network in the United States. Before the ceremony began, Ms. Uchima and Mr. Hart gave an introduction to the SOPP, including its background and significance, its home at Fuji Sanctuary, and its expansion around the world. This introduction, as well as the video recording of the full SOPP ceremony, can be viewed online here.

By 10 am, the thousands of participants and more than 100 special guests and prayer leaders had taken seats in the outdoor Prayer Field. The ceremony opened with a short performance on the fujara, a traditional Slovakian instrument, played by Stanislav Ujhazi. Then, Byakko President Tomohiko Naya offered some welcoming remarks.

Opening remarks
Tomohiko Naya, President of Byakko Shinko Kai

Today, we are celebrating the eleventh annual Symphony of Peace Prayers and the inauguration of the Fuji Declaration, amidst the greenery of Fuji Sanctuary. We are able to hold this splendid ceremony thanks to the support and participation of so many people. I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to the prayer leaders, distinguished guests, and performers, who have come from other parts of Japan and faraway countries, and to all of you gathered here today. I would also like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the numerous prayer colleagues who have generously given material and moral support for this day.

Early this morning, Fuji Sanctuary was connected via the internet with Kronborg Castle in Denmark. Many people attended the early morning ceremony, including the initiators of the Fuji Declaration, Dr. Ervin Laszlo, Mr. Hiroo Saionji, President of the Goi Peace Foundation, and Masami Saionji, Chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai. This ceremony was a prologue to today’s SOPP.

Right now, the SOPP is being broadcast across the globe over the internet. Today’s glorious celebration is being shared by many more people. The idea of the ‘divine spark’, which is expressed in the Fuji Declaration, is, I think, in essence, one with the SOPP’s program of prayers for peace. Every year, through the SOPP, we are newly assured that by respecting our diversity, we can become one within the essence of our prayers. I sincerely hope that the Fuji Declaration will create and spread a new awareness among humanity.

Today’s celebration is also attended by the 15th Urasenke Grand Master, Dr. Genshitsu Sen. The fact that a tea ceremony to commemorate the Fuji Declaration is being held at the base of Mount Fuji, a symbol of Japan, is very significant, and is a great honor for us.

Today’s SOPP program symbolizes truth, goodness, and beauty, and was created by distinguished leaders in the fields of religion and the arts. The theme of the Fuji Declaration is “Awakening the divine spark in the spirit of humanity for a civilization of oneness with diversity on planet Earth.” Through the various parts of today’s celebration, I would like to take this message to heart. At the very end of the program, there will be a finale song, performed on stage by students from the nearby Hitoana Elementary School here in Fujinomiya. We are very pleased to have the cooperation of our local community.

I would once again like to extend my deep, heartfelt appreciation to each one of you, for the efforts you have made towards today’s event. Last but not least, I would like to thank all the people who have sent messages to today’s ceremony. Thank you very much.

Following Mr. Naya’s remarks, the ceremony commenced with a Musical Prelude, performed by Mr. Kenji Williams (violin) and Ms. Kristin Hoffmann (vocals) from the United States. Mr. Williams is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, director, composer, and performer whose current project, BELLA GAIA, consists of live music and dance combined with satellite imagery of Earth, time lapse nature photography, and cultural heritage footage. Ms. Hoffmann, a singer/songwriter based in New York, is a collaborator on the BELLA GAIA project. They performed a piece entitled ÌNIN One Earth Choir, by Anna Bacchia. The interplay of violin and voice, at times in unison and at times with distinct melodies, created lush waves of sound that rolled outwards and enveloped participants in vibrations of warmth and beauty.

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