9 events: Castro Valley, CA; Chicago, IL; Cornwall, CT; Croton Falls, NY; Gardena, CA; Iowa City, IA; Payson, AZ; Sandpoint, ID; Seattle, WA
Castro Valley, California, United States: report by Kai Neptune-Salisbury
It was a beautiful day at the Lake Chabot Marina Park in Castro Valley, California. We found an excellent location in a field that was easy to see from the parking lot. We placed small flags on either side of the stage area, and a purple and pink banner reading “May Peace Prevail on Earth” hung from the trees at center stage. About 30 people joined our group, including a few people who were passing by at this beautiful public park. Our children participated as well.
I started with some words of welcome, followed by PJ Hirabayashi’s beautiful motion/movement/meditation and sound performance with a Japanese taiko drum. Ms. Hirabayashi’s group is called TaikoPeace. Her performance was so wonderful, and really created a space for our prayers. I sounded her crystal bowl as she performed.
Next, we began the prayers from different religious and spiritual traditions. First, we had Blake Sinclair offer a beautiful prayer of spirituality, and the audience repeated his prayer together. Secondly, Gbemisola Elutilo, a lovely grandmother from Nigeria, gave a talk on Christianity. She spoke in her native language, and we welcomed her participation. Thirdly, Janardhan Chodagam led a Hindu prayer and meditation. The fourth participant was Darren Bizardi of the Native American tradition. He talked of his tradition and offered a prayer in his own language, then led a short part in English, which we repeated. The fifth and last leader was Ryoko Murakami, representing Byakko Shinko Kai. She led a peace prayer in Japanese and English, and then with two other Byakko members performed a wordless prayer for the awakening of all humanity. It was all very wonderful.
We continued with prayers for peace in each country, using cards showing the national flags. The country list was alphabetically ordered. My good friend Angi Spanelli played melodic piano music as we prayed. We finished with a few minutes of silent meditation, followed by a visualization of the world shining and humanity at peace.
Next, I introduced the Fuji Declaration and read the full declaration out loud. I urged everyone to go online and sign the declaration. We then got in a smaller circle to play some rhythms together. My brother David Neptune led the rhythm circle with a good friend, Wali Elutilo, from Nigeria, playing djembe drums. Everyone had a drum or shaker. After two songs, I thanked everyone for coming and invited everyone to stay and enjoy some more time together if they wished. We had some refreshments to share with everyone. Everyone said they had a good time.
Chicago, Illinois, United States: report by Greg Garrett
In collaboration with the weekend launch of the Fuji Declaration, the Peace School in Chicago held a noontime meditation for world peace during our Open House on Saturday, May 16th. Adults and children alike took turns leading the group in Peace Breathing by repeating the words, “Inhale…world, exhale…peace,” as members and guests closed their eyes and silently breathed in unison.
During the meditation session we provided an introduction to the Fuji Declaration and everyone was encouraged to sign it online. The group found inspiration through a reading from the book Peace Breathing: Lessons on Achieving Peace in Everyday Life. Afterward we all gathered for refreshments and conversation as the Fuji Declaration video played. Some participants expressed that the group meditation brought an experience of extreme calm never before felt!
Later that evening our staff gathered again for Peace Breathing and the Call to Peace for all countries of the world, synchronized to occur at the same time as the Symphony of Peace Prayers at Fuji Sanctuary. All in all it was a beautiful day of peace!
Cornwall, Connecticut, United States: report by Pamela Beasley
On May 17th a peace prayer ceremony to celebrate the SOPP was held in Cornwall, Connecticut. It was a beautiful day with perfect weather as we began with the prayer May Peace Prevail on Earth, followed by the wonderful Fuji Declaration. Then, everyone happily participated in praying for peace in each country. As each country’s flag was displayed and the prayer was recited, Channa Abel performed a short wordless prayer for each country. We were aware of and happy to participate in praying with many others around the globe, and especially happy to participate in proclaiming the Fuji Declaration. It represents a new awakening for all humankind, and we all look forward to seeing people around the world accept the message of the Fuji Declaration, that we are all connected and are all intrinsically divine beings.
Croton Falls, New York, United States: report by Rev. Deborah Moldow and Reiko Kamozawa
The Chapel at Croton Falls was honored to host our fifth annual Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony on May 17th, as our ‘Interfaith Sunday’ event for the month of May.
To begin, Rev. Melanie Noblit-Gambino led a Universal Worship Service, which was created by Inayat Khan as a prayer service invoking the One Being through the world’s major faith traditions. Our ceremony then featured prayers for peace from many world religions. We invited everyone to join in with a printed program that also included a message from Masami Saionji. The Chapel was particularly happy to welcome three special guests who demonstrated a powerful wordless prayer with movement.
This year, the Chapel also helped to launch the Fuji Declaration. Pastor Hans Hallundbaek invited everyone present to sign the declaration online. The service was aligned with the official launch of the Fuji Declaration at Fuji Sanctuary in Japan, where the Chapel’s own Rev. Deborah Moldow was taking part.
The finale of the service was a world peace prayer ceremony, honoring each country on earth with a prayer for peace and happiness as the flag of each nation was displayed in a grand mandala around a central peace pole. Kirtan player Miriam “Sita” Zernis accompanied the ceremony with her original “May Peace Prevail on Earth” chant, supported by percussionist Fumio Taniguchi. All joined in the haunting melody as the peace energy grew throughout the ceremony. All in all, the Symphony of Peace Prayers at the Chapel at Croton Falls was an uplifting celebration of the oneness of all humanity.
Gardena, California, United States: report by Tatsuo Tim Ide
In past years, we have conducted our own ceremony in sync with the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary, but this year many people wanted to watch the live broadcast from Fuji Sanctuary together.
So, we gathered at the Byakko Los Angeles Dojo at noon on May 16. We began with a short program of peace prayer and meditation, and then at 12:40 we turned on the live stream of the pre-dawn ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary. We heard cheers of “Wow!” as the sublime image of Fuji Sanctuary leaped from the dojo’s screen to our eyes. We felt ourselves enveloped in the solemn atmosphere of the early morning at Fuji Sanctuary—an atmosphere in which the door to the rebirth of humanity’s sacred consciousness would open. It looked as though the divinities were watching over the first act of this major event to launch the Fuji Declaration.
Then, we reconvened at 6 pm to join in the main SOPP ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary. We had printed out the program materials that were available on Byakko Shinko Kai’s website, and we distributed them to the participants. We connected to the internet, and then turned on the web broadcast. Suddenly, the screen was filled with crowds of people coming and going in the Prayer Field at Fuji Sanctuary! The clear blue sky and beautiful Mount Fuji were vividly projected on the screen, and the music at Fuji Sanctuary resounded in our dojo. It felt as if we were right there at Fuji Sanctuary! We were so grateful, and some participants had tears in their eyes.
Every part of the program—the speeches, the tea ceremony, the prayers from different faiths, and so on—were more wonderful than I can express in words, and I could not take my eyes off the screen. As Yuka Saionji gave her moving remarks at the end of the ceremony, many of us teared up again, and we renewed our vow to continue working for the sake of humanity, so that even one more person might awaken to their sacred consciousness. During the Finale Song, “We Are All Shining Divine Sparks,” we all joined our hands together in prayer.
I would like to congratulate everyone on the inauguration of the Fuji Declaration and the great success of the 11th annual SOPP! As we watched, it felt like there was no gap between Fuji Sanctuary and our dojo in Gardena—like we were perfectly joined as one, transcending space and time. We closed our gathering with a commitment, as the only branch of Byakko Shinko Kai in the United States, to continue evolving and progressing in our work. It felt like we were enveloped in a magnificent wave of light. Thank you so much for this opportunity.
Iowa City, Iowa, United States: report by Chiyomi Prasithrathsint
On May 16th, I participated in the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary through the online broadcast.
On May 17th, we held our own peace prayer ceremony in Room E at the Iowa City Public Library. Standing in front of the library is a peace pole that has been there for quite some time. When I saw it for the first time two years ago, I was very moved, and this year I was so delighted to be able to hold an SOPP ceremony right there!
We prayed for peace in each country, by region of the world, in English. After we prayed for Russia, a Russian participant stood up, saying that she wanted to pray in Russian. After that, we prayed together for Russia, Ukraine, Croatia, China, Japan and Thailand in their native languages. We also prayed seven times for Nepal and for the United States.
After a minute of silence for peace, we sang the songs “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and “We Are the World,” led by two of the participants (infinite gratitude to them!). I gave a brief explanation about the Fuji Declaration, and gave a printed copy to all the participants, along with a copy of Hideo Takahashi’s poem “The Earth Is Waiting,” which I feel fits very well with the Fuji Declaration.
I presented a desktop peace pole to Ms. Lori Nelson, the director of Peace Iowa. After the ceremony, we enjoyed some refreshments together. I am very grateful to all the participants, especially one young participant, just seven years old, who held the flags beautifully. It was a remarkable ceremony unlike any that I have experienced before. All the participants said they enjoyed it, and asked me to hold it again next year!
A few days later, I received an email from Lori Nelson saying that she and other participants were very inspired by the peace prayer ceremony, and they plan to repeat it next year, with Lori organizing. She also sent me a photo of her grandfather with four girl scouts and the wooden peace pole they carved together in 1997 in Clinton, Iowa. It is now placed in Eagle Point Park, a large city park on the Mississippi River.
Leslie Holis, who helped me to hold the gathering last year at her place, also sent me this message: “As we read the names of each country and prayed ‘May peace be in (name of country),’ I often felt close to tears. I had tears of sadness for the current struggles of the people for whom war has too often been part of everyday life, but also tears of joy in knowing that our prayers for peace would reach each person in each country, and help them strengthen the divine spark that lives in each of their hearts!”
Payson, Arizona, United States: report by Marcena Brook
Our SOPP ceremony in Payson, Arizona (the very first one!) took place in the Payson United Methodist Church, with about 28 people in attendance. Prayers were shared by representatives from 3 Christian Churches, a Tibetan Buddhist Monk and 3 supporting members of Byakko Shinko Kai.
We were blessed to have Uran Snider and Tatsuko Imamaki come from California with the flags of the world, to lead us in the flag ceremony. People enjoyed coming up to get a flag, saying, “May peace be in (name of country),” then placing it in the holder. Each person did this numerous times, until we had prayed for peace in all the countries. At the end, we sang together, led by Michele Montblue and Curt Arrant on guitar. We closed with John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”
Several participants commented on how moving the ceremony was, and said they were grateful for the experience and that next time they would invite others to join.
Sandpoint, Idaho, United States: report by Cynthia Mason
We held our SOPP celebration in Sandpoint, Idaho at Cynthia’s Preschool and Kindergarten. I am the teacher at the school, and I was joined by Keiko and Will Lewis. There were 13 children present.
To center us in harmony, we took some cleansing breaths after applying a drop of essential oil on our hands. We spoke of the power of words (kotodama), and I showed the children a ‘words of peace’ poster. We repeated the word ‘peace’ in various languages.
Next, we offered a prayer for peace using the powerful words May Peace Prevail on Earth. We showed pictures of the continents and spoke the words “May peace be in (name of continent).” We especially included prayers of peace and healing for Nepal. We also sang the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
Earlier in the day, I had asked the children to draw a picture and write about what peace looks like to them. I shared these with the group. We sang “We Shall Walk in Peace” (a verse of “We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger), and to end our peace ceremony I read The Peace Book by Todd Parr.
I think I speak for us all when I say that a calming, loving energy surrounded us as we shared these thoughts and prayers for peace.
Seattle, Washington, United States: report by Rev. Karen Lindquist
We celebrated the SOPP during our Sunday service on May 17th at the Interfaith Community Sanctuary in Seattle. We gathered for morning worship, and all attending participated in the procession of the flags of the world. Anita Mammoser shared a wordless prayer for the peace and awakening of humanity as our opening prayer, and I followed her prayer with a reading from Masami Saionji’s Evolving with the Universe.
Our ceremony continued with prayers from the following traditions: Buddhism, First Peoples, Pagan, and Wiccan. We sang and chanted “May Peace Prevail on Earth” throughout the procession of the flags of the world. The name of each country was read aloud as its flag was raised high and waved joyously.
This was a multi-generational gathering, with everyone from elders to children participating! We are grateful to Nao Valente for sharing the flags of the world with us. We are grateful to Masami Saionji for her presence in our Sanctuary many years ago—her blessings are still reverberating here.