6 events: Brisbane, Binalong Bay, Geelong, Little Swanport, Melbourne (Eltham), Perth (Bicton), Perth (Edgewater)
Brisbane, Australia: report by Babs O’Connor
In Brisbane we had a very intimate gathering of two. Faye Carver and I felt the wonderful power and energy generated by our prayers and our flag ceremony combining with all the other participants around the world. I then introduced Faye to the Fuji Declaration, which we read individually and then recited together. Faye was very happy to sign the declaration, which she said rang true for her in all aspects.
I later watched the event from Fuji Sanctuary online. I feel very happy to have participated in this historic and noble event.
Geelong, Australia: report by Jenny Funston
Our SOPP ceremony this year was held in the afternoon on May 17th, at Geelong West Town Hall. Some 60-70 people flowed through our ceremony during the course of the afternoon. The four elements of earth, air, fire and water were represented on our centre table. Around the outside of the room, we had a display of handwritten mandalas, as well as many photographs from gatherings, workshops, and other events around the world.
I began with a welcome address, in which I spoke briefly about the essence of the SOPP—oneness and love—and then we honoured the ancestors and custodians of the land. Dot Penn ‘lit’ the Peace Flame (using a battery candle because lighted flames are not allowed in the hall), and then some of us performed a wordless prayer to call forth humanity’s divine nature.
After this opening sequence, we moved on to prayers from different faiths and spiritual traditions. This year we had short prayers from the Baha’i faith, Brahma Kumaris, Byakko Shinko Kai, Buddhism, Christianity, the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, Hare Krishna, Hinduism, Sunni Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Christian Spiritualism, and the Universal Peace Federation, as well as a prayer for Mother Earth.
Next, Anda McMillan read Masami Saionji’s message to overseas SOPP events, and then Shirley Carroll gave a beautiful tribute to Monsignor Murray, who passed away last year and had been a strong supporter of all our peace activities. Her tribute was followed by a performance of dances from India by Neha Singh and her dance group. This was loved by all, with its amazing energy, colour and the obvious joy of the dancers. The dance group stayed to join us for a large part of the flag ceremony.
We then introduced the Fuji Declaration, giving an explanation of it and inviting people to sign it online after the ceremony. Because some participants left before the end of the ceremony, they did not have a chance to sign it that day, but everyone was given information about the declaration and how to sign it. After this, we commenced our flag ceremony for peace in each world nation, led by Silvana Benacchio and Bev Loveday. All participants were invited to be flag bearers. As each nation’s name was called out and its flag lifted high, we all said, “May peace be in (name of country)”, as our flag parade continued in a circle around the centre table.
Kiri Dewes from the Australian ‘counsel’ of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers gave us a little insight into how the Australian group came into being. This is a group of wisdom keepers of various traditions, all working towards growing peace in our world. We were honoured to have eight of them able to join us. The synchronicity was that their yearly gathering was in Melbourne on the day before, and they chose as their joint activity for the next day to come to the Geelong SOPP!
As we neared the end of the ceremony, we all read Masami Saionji’s Prayer of Oneness, which she offered on the same day at Fuji Sanctuary. Then, Robynne Mahoney led a Global Peace Prayer Meditation, in which we focused our attention on all the countries of the world and honouring their existence and all that dwells therein. This was especially beautiful, with all of us holding hands around the tables filled with flags and the elements, and being encouraged to smile through our prayer.
After a few closing remarks, we invited the participants and guests to stay for afternoon tea. A short video of the event can be viewed online at: https://youtu.be/3rJvlK0gpUc.
Following the ceremony I received some lovely comments, including the following:
“We were so happy we stopped and attended the peace ceremony in Geelong as the beginning of our holiday on the Victorian coast. It is beautiful to be united in a single cause for world peace. The flag ceremony was particularly moving, and it was a delight to meet the members of the Grandmothers Council. Thank you for including us as part of your special group.”
“All the SOPPs I’ve attended have been wonderful, but this one is the best ever!”
“When the Buddhist prayer commenced at the prayer service, I was meditating, and with my third eye, I became aware that I was looking at the Earth Mother, in all her glory, as portrayed in the famous Neolithic statues. As I looked up, I could feel her peaceful, vibrant, and loving presence, and her approval of the gathering, and her full accord with the words of the prayers sent up for peace.”
Little Swanport, Australia: report by Tom Teniswood
We had a fun and relaxing SOPP with great accomplishment here at the Wind Song retreat centre in Little Swanport, Tasmania! Our new flags were a real hit and made a great display around the peace pole!
It was a small group—nine of us—for the ceremony. It was perfect weather, and we were joined by a great flock of currawongs and later the kookaburras. Teresa played two new pieces—“Afternoon Soliloquy” and “Reflections on 7”, a most appropriate and beautiful performance.
In addition, the live stream from the SOPP ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary was shown on a large screen at our community market in Triabunna. Most market goers saw parts of the ceremony and quite a number asked for more information.
Melbourne (Eltham), Australia: report by Rev. Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson
On May 16, the Heartlight Centre for Conscious Living hosted a Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony at our home in Eltham, a suburb of Melbourne. The Heartlight Centre has been hosting and facilitating SOPP ceremonies for the past five years at various locations in Melbourne, and its mission includes promoting and supporting personal and planetary peace.
22 people attended the event, and 22 faiths and interfaith networks were represented by prayers offered and ceremonial candles lighted on behalf of each tradition/faith and network. Various passages regarding peace were also shared by participants from wisdom teachers such as the Dalai Lama, Rumi, and Ghandi.
Everyone was blessed by the “Welcome to Country” and the playing of the didgeridoo, led by Richard Williams, who acknowledged the Traditional Landowners of the land of Australia. Richard is from the Wiradjuri people of New South Wales, and as he played the didgeridoo, our hearts were bathed in the beauty of the Dreamtime.
After our interfaith prayers, the lighting of candles, the message from Masami Saionji to all SOPP 2015 participants that was read aloud, and our prayers for peace in all the regions of the world, we were addressed by Anne Connell, who has participated in previous SOPP ceremonies. Anne was invited this year to address us on our theme that peace is an ‘inside job’—that each individual contributes to world peace by addressing whatever is not at peace within each of us. It is a lifelong journey and we must take responsibility to heal whatever needs healing within us, releasing old wounds and old beliefs.
For the past nine years Anne has pursued this journey of inner healing and inner peace through the work and teachings of A.H. Almaas, who founded “The Diamond Approach”. All of us recognized that Anne was describing not just her personal journey towards inner peace, but the journey all of us must embrace. In the passages she shared from Elements of the Real in Man, we were all reminded that our commitment to the journey within is always about revealing and remembering our true self—our true nature—which is compassion, love, and peace. This part of the ceremony was personally moving for many of us.
Another participant, Bernard McConnell, who has attended previous SOPP ceremonies, wrote a beautiful poem for the occasion. Again, many were moved by Bernard’s poetic expression of our personal quest for peace.
The two of us then performed the songs “Ancient Mother”, “Unity with All Life”, “An Instrument of Peace”, based on the Prayer of St Francis, and John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Music, of course, magnifies the power of our words and our purpose together.
At the end of the ceremony everyone was invited to participate in the “Benediction Dance” from the Dances of Universal Peace, based on a prayer from Hazrat Inayat Khan, founder of the interfaith movement known as International Sufism:
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.
After we had expressed our gratitude to the participants, everyone enjoyed together the delicious food that had been brought by the participants.
Perth (Bicton), Australia: report by John Bowkett and Elaine George
What can one say about the wonderful event that took place in Perth on 17th May? Although the weather was very wet and windy, this did not prevent the day from being a great success. In fact, one prayer leader/musician commented that she believed the weather only helped in creating a ‘cocoon’ of peace and harmony inside the venue while the elements raged outside.
Our dream of having a bed of olive branches to receive our world flags on completion of our flag ceremony was created by the arriving guests, with their helpful hands and happy conversation. Beautiful corsages of gypsophila, popularly known as baby’s breath, and sprigs of olive tree leaves were made for our prayer leaders and musicians—they were absolutely beautiful and very much appreciated by their recipients!
We were blessed to have Eva introduce the Fuji Declaration, followed by prayer leaders from Hovea Ashram Universal Great Brotherhood, the Virtues Project, the Jewish faith, Muslims on the Sufi Path to Allah, Sikh Gurdwara Perth Inc., 11 Principles, the religion of Islam, Iskcon Temple Hare Krishna Devotees, the Baha’i faith, Sant Nirankari Mission (Universal Brotherhood), and Christianity, who shared their prayers and words of peace.
We also had heartfelt music from very talented musicians from Hovea Ashram Universal Great Brotherhood (native American style drone flute), Muslims on the Sufi Path to Allah (kamancheh), 11 Principles (crystal bowls), Iskcon Temple Hare Krishna Devotees (harmonium, mrdanga and kartalas), and Sant Nirankari Mission (guitar, drums and vocal), as well our MC, Maryanne (flute and keyboard), and her young friend Olive (banjo). Their music enriched our prayers with beautiful melodies and peaceful vibrations.
The flag ceremony, once again, was very beautiful. The Sant Nirankari Mission had prepared a special song and our master of ceremonies, Maryanne, and her young friend Olive combined their talents to compose a very uplifting song, ‘Burning Bright’, which we all sang in harmony to end our program. Ted and Rabia, Muslims on the Sufi Path to Allah, generously donated beautiful handmade earthenware bowls together with a selection of olives, candles and dates to present as gifts to our facilitators, prayer leaders and musicians. Our sincere appreciation is extended to all who contributed their energy to our prayer gathering.
To finish our report, here are some comments received from prayer leaders, sharing their experience of this auspicious event: “It was really an honour to be part of this event and share the sacred space with such a diverse group of like-minded souls.” “I enjoyed every part of the program, from the music and prayers, the olive leaf corsages, the flag ceremony and the lovely afternoon tea.” “It was really a privilege to be part of this event and great to learn of the similarities we share with other faith groups, i.e. love of God in His many names and forms.” “Thank you for making us the part of Symphony of Peace Prayers celebration. It was a great atmosphere and we had a wonderful experience.”
Perth (Edgewater), Australia: report by Eva Szauter
We celebrated the SOPP in Edgewater, a suburb of Perth, on 18 May. The day before, we decorated our meditation room with flags for each country of the world. It was deeply emotional. My husband came in the room and asked, “Why are you crying?” I answered, “Have you ever dreamed about having almost 200 countries meeting in our room in total harmony and oneness?” It was an amazing experience that I will never forget!
The next day we had a lovely, cosy little gathering. It started with a meditation for world peace. After that, we lit a heart-shaped candle arrangement, and we read Masami Saionji’s message to overseas events, followed by the Fuji Declaration. Then it was time to pray together. We all felt the deep connection and unity between faiths. One Christian lady said, “I never realised until now that we are all praying for the same things.” What a great awareness and awakening!
Our next scene of the evening was the flag presentation. It was an unforgettable experience, sending peace, harmony, love, contentment, and gratitude to each and every country. We finished with silence, with infinite good wishes in our hearts and souls for all. At the end, all the participants signed the Fuji Declaration and pledged to practice it diligently. We are grateful for being able to participate in this most important event! Words will never replace our experiences and the feelings in our hearts.