Amsterdam, Netherlands: report by Shinji Kasema
This year, our SOPP ceremony took place in the evening on the 16th of May at the Oude Lutherse Kerk (Old Lutheran Church) in Amsterdam. Amsterdam University uses this church as their auditorium, so it has a great facility for audio and video presentations.
As this year’s event included a presentation of the Fuji Declaration, the atmosphere was a bit different than in previous years. Since the Fuji Declaration was introduced, my mindset about the SOPP has changed. We still invited many religious leaders to lead us in their prayers, as we believe that peace prayers of any form can unite us, however our overall mindset is less religious and more humanitarian. The Fuji Declaration gave us a clearer, more global view of where we stand. As a result, our ceremony felt more relaxed and natural. In a way, I felt that we were more unified and gave more concentration to each program.
We began with a Shinto prayer led by Guuji Paul de Leeuw. He used a peace pole as his shrine and also purified a set of paper flags for our flag ceremony. Then, we watched the video in which Dr. Ervin Lazslo gives his view on the Fuji Declaration. This was followed by a reading of the Fuji Declaration by Rev. Dr. Andreas Wöhle, accompanied by recorder music by Ayumi Matsuda. A Tibetan Buddhist meditation was led by Mattieu Vaessen, after which we shared food and held a flag ceremony to pray for peace in each country. We then had a performance by a German gospel choir called “Voice of Music”, and after that, a performance by a trio including Ayumi Matsuda, Valerie Schepper, and myself. After this, Valerie Schepper led a singing bowl meditation, and Marcello Windoph led a warm silent meditation accompanied by Naomi Sato playing the shô (a Japanese wind instrument). At the end of the program Rev. Dr. Andreas Wöhle led a peace ritual from the Christian tradition.
Many of us felt that the various programs could have been longer, as it was hard to end some of them so quickly. Overall, it was a very rich experience. For our art exhibition, we invited ikebana artist Ryoko Nishimura, who was visiting Amsterdam for a residency program. At her suggestion, we combined my glass objects and her flower arrangements. She said that it’s important for a finished work to give the space a sense of harmony, and then the flowers and vases will naturally become beautiful. Her philosophy and way of working fit perfectly with our SOPP, and we appreciated her work very much. I would like to say thank you to all the people who participated and made this event so precious.
A video of the event can be viewed online at: https://youtu.be/-DZ6SGqMwgg.