9 events: Binalong Bay, Brisbane, Geelong, Geelong West, Melbourne, Narooma, Perth (Edgewater), Perth (East Fremantle), and Rokeby
Binalong Bay, Australia: report by Rosalind Gregg
A lovely and lively gathering to celebrate the SOPP and the Soul of WoMen campaign unfolded at Moon Whisper in Binalong Bay when five dedicated souls gathered to contribute to peace, harmony and balance in our changing world.
We explored the concept of the divine feminine both within ourselves and in the world. Several insights led to a lively discussion, which culminated in a unanimous understanding of the effect that our expression of our divine feminine has on the people we meet in our daily interactions. We agreed that by sharing our positive feminine attributes, we receive a positive response in return. With this heartfelt understanding, we could see how we all have the innate potential to be creators of change, and to daily contribute to a world of peace, love, joy and compassion. We then created small mandalas using words most meaningful to us as individuals.
This sense of the infinite ability to manifest change was carried into a joyful and sincere flag ceremony to share with all nations of our beautiful world. Our divine sparks shone as our closing circle of song made it clear that we always have a choice in what we focus on in our day to day lives:
For every act of terror there’s a thousand acts of kindness
For every act of hate there’s a thousand more of love
For every act of vengeance there’s a thousand of forgiveness
This world is filled with beauty
This world is full of love
Brisbane, Australia: report by Babs O’Connor
It was a lovely, calm, sunny day in Brisbane’s bayside suburb of Schorncliffe, where 17 happy, peace-loving people joined together to celebrate the SOPP. We had a special interfaith prayer from Grandmother Wendy, and then performed a flag ceremony to pray for peace in each country. This was followed by a reading of the Fuji declaration, and each participant was given a laminated copy of the declaration to take home. Afterwards, we had afternoon tea with happy promises for another event next year.
Geelong, Australia: report by Robynne Mahoney
This year I participated in the SOPP in a quiet, heartfelt way. It was a beautiful warm, sunny autumn day, perfect to be out in nature celebrating peace and the divinity of humanity. I chose to participate with prayers of peace and expressions of gratitude, and to celebrate the divine essence of humanity by being in solitude in nature by a river, and later in a park near the bay. It was a soul-nourishing experience.
My prayers for world peace were performed near the Barwon River. I felt the water from the falls carrying the thoughts, words and actions of peace with the river to the sea and out to the world. It was here I sang the song “We Are All Shining Divine Sparks,” and thanked the deities, guardian spirits and ancestors of my town for their guidance, care and protection. The prayer May Peace Prevail on Earth was said in both Japanese and English. Prayers of peace were said for all countries of the world. Then, I walked in silence, offering respect to nature and humanity.
The drive to the park gave me an opportunity to listen to peace chants and songs. Then, at the park, a Brahma Kumaris guided meditation on world peace was followed by bright thoughts and positive light-filled qualities of the divine feminine. At this time the wind sprung up, carrying the prayers and words of love out across the bay and onwards.
Inside the park gardens is a peace pole. I placed my small ‘mobile’ peace pole beside it and gave prayers of peace to all the regions of the world. Then, I reaffirmed my declaration to igniting the divine spark for a thriving world by reading the Fuji Declaration aloud. To finish, I listened to and joined in singing a peace song called “Light a Candle, Say a Prayer for Peace in the World.”
Geelong West, Australia: report by Jenny Funston
We had a beautiful, joyful ceremony of oneness at the Geelong West Town Hall, which was colourfully decorated for the occasion. The vibration and energy at this year’s SOPP was the most powerful I have felt here.
After I gave a brief welcome and introduction to the SOPP, Dot Penn lit the Peace Flame, representing the flame of love that burns in our hearts and the oneness of us all. We read Masami Saionji’s message for this year’s SOPP, and then a group of presenters performed a wordless prayer for the peace and harmony of all humanity.
This year we had twelve beautiful prayer presenters sharing prayers from different faiths and traditions. I felt that their hearts were really open to connecting with each other, and found that my own heart opened more and more to love as I listened to and then shared each prayer. Participants were invited to join in saying each prayer after the presenter’s individual portion. After the interfaith prayers, we sang the song “We Are All Shining Divine Sparks,” celebrating both the diversity of faith traditions and the oneness of all humanity.
We then read the Fuji Declaration together, after which I introduced the Soul of WoMen campaign. Shayne Sullivan spoke about the ‘dance’ that we do to balance the divine feminine and divine masculine within ourselves, and then we moved on to a time for quiet meditation and reflection. Each person was given their own sheet, on which they wrote down a word that they felt best embodied the divine feminine for them. They then presented this to the gathering, saying their word, then pinning their sheet on the board.
The Bollywood Dancers led by Neha Singh, who performed at our SOPP ceremony last year, again graced our event, with their vibrant energy and obvious love of life. Following this was our flag ceremony for peace in each country. Always a highlight, the flag ceremony was joyfully joined by all able-bodied participants. When we had raised the flag of every country, we then said Masami Saionji’s “Prayer of Oneness” that was first introduced at the 2012 SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary. The final part of the program was a Global Peace Prayer Meditation, led by Silvana Benacchio. We formed a circle around the flags and the peace pole at the centre, focusing our attention on all world countries, honouring their existence and all that dwells within them.
The participants appeared to enjoy the proceedings immensely, with the majority joining us for afternoon tea and reflection. One gentleman from the Geelong Interfaith Network said to me, “I love coming to your events!” Several others offered positive comments, with many saying that they would spread the word about this event.
Melbourne, Australia (Eltham): report by Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson
On May 21, Heartlight Centre for Conscious Living again hosted a Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony, at the home of Rev Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson in Eltham, a suburb of Melbourne. Heartlight has been hosting and facilitating SOPP ceremonies for the past six years at various locations in Melbourne, and its mission includes promoting and supporting personal and planetary peace.
Our SOPP 2016 gathering included participants who have been involved for the past six years, as well as newcomers who took great delight in offering prayers and lighting ceremonial candles on behalf of each tradition/faith and region of the world. Various passages regarding peace and interfaith harmony were also shared by participants from wisdom teachers and poets such as Rabia, Rumi, Hafiz, and Arabi.
This year, after we acknowledged the Traditional Landowners of the Land of Australia, a new participant, Betsy Dere, sang a Baha’i prayer in the language of the Wurundjeri people who lived in this part of our state, Victoria, before the colonisation of Australia. To hear the song sung in this aboriginal language was moving indeed.
As in past years, our ceremony included the interfaith prayers, the lighting of candles, the message read aloud from Mrs. Saionji to all SOPP 2016 participants, and praying the world peace prayer for all the regions of the world. We also included the Soul of WoMen campaign, acknowledging the need for balancing the divine feminine with the divine masculine. In addition to our annual rendering of the song “Ancient Mother”, we also included a Dance of Universal Peace entitled “The Earth Is Our Mother”. This enabled us as a group to embody the feminine qualities of compassion, nurturing, and unconditional love, and to feel the earth under our feet as we sang: The Earth is our Mother, we must take care of her. Unite my people, live as One.
Other songs this year included “Deep Peace”, “Unity with All Life”, and “An Instrument of Peace”, based on the Prayer of St Francis, which were performed by Rev Gloria Grace and Geoff Nelson. In addition, one of our new participants, who lighted a candle on behalf of the Mystic and Monastic traditions, sang her prayer/chant for us. 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.
After expressions of gratitude from Rev Gloria Grace and Geoff, delicious offerings of the food brought by participants were enjoyed by everyone.
One of the participants commented: “As I listened to all the prayers of the various traditions, I was struck by the basic similarity of them all. As a Christian, I could and did easily pray them all, and rejoiced in our unity in prayers for peace.” Another remarked: “There is something very grounding, affirming and consolidating in sharing with people from so many different beliefs, backgrounds and traditions, knowing that we are all there in the interest of peace in the world. Our differences fade into the background in the face of this common goal. The warm, peaceful and accepting environment also lends itself to the atmosphere of peace. It provides a space for us to reflect on peace in our own lives, both within ourselves and with those close to us in our lives, on our relationships with others in our community, in the wider society and all throughout the world. It provides hope for me, and I’m sure for others, to have this opportunity to celebrate such a worthy cause.”
Narooma, Australia: report by Patricia Delaney
Our meditation group, Hearts Catching Fire, gathered to watch the broadcast of the SOPP ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary. Everyone said they were deeply impressed. We found the whole event to be wonderful and profoundly moving, especially the flag ceremony. We were very still and silent during that time, and tears came to my eyes.
It was especially amazing for Suzanne (one of the group members) and myself, as we had just recently visited Fuji Sanctuary. I felt so connected to everyone there and to the strong energy for peace throughout the whole world. It also felt very affirming for our smaller group, who faithfully spend Sunday mornings in meditation, sending light and love to all the world, just wanting to be ‘of service’. After our meditation, we have a time of sharing, and we finish off with a meal together. It’s such a special day in our week, and we link mentally with others in this group, as well as with groups all round the world who are spending time in quietude for the good of all and our precious planet.
Perth, Australia (Edgewater): report by Eva Szauter
I feel that each year, our SOPP celebration is getting more and more powerful. Once again, we had the fortune to celebrate the SOPP and spread the vibration of love, peace, unity and compassion to our precious world. We truly felt the connection with each country. The time will come when our sincere prayers for peace will bring global changes. This year, we were blessed to hold two SOPP events. On Sunday, May 15, a small group of us gathered together to shower the world with waves of lasting peace, contentment and joy.
The atmosphere and the vibrations were so powerful that we decided to keep all the flags and decorations until Tuesday, when we had our regular meditation gathering. After our meditation session, no one wanted to speak—each person remained silent. People said they wanted to continue visualising holding the globe in their hands, mentally creating lasting peace, love and happiness.
Once again, I would like to give our sincere gratitude to Byakko Shinko Kai for organizing such an invaluable event! I also want to thank our angel, Jenny Funston, who is a great inspiration to all of us.
Perth, Australia (East Fremantle): report by John Bowkett and Elaine George
A small but powerful Symphony of Peace Prayers gathering was held in East Fremantle, Western Australia on Sunday 15th May.
Our preparations for this year’s event had a huge shift in energy when we learned that the head of Sant Nirankari Mission, His Holiness Baba Hardev Singh Ji Maharaj, was killed in a road accident on the Friday prior to our SOPP celebrations. As head of the Mission, His Holiness worked tirelessly in promoting world unity, peace and tranquillity. The Western Australian members of the Mission are great supporters of the SOPP, and their tireless contributions—whether as prayer leaders, musicians, sound technicians, photographers, video recorders or as contributors to our refreshments—have been a wonderful support.
Although the gathering was smaller and less structured than usual, we felt that the energy of the prayers was more powerful than ever. With the absence of members of Sant Nirankari Mission, alterations to our program were made so that we were able to commence with a few moments of silence, the sharing of positive words and a beautiful song in memory of Nirankari Baba Ji, as he was known.
Following this were our prayers for world peace and unity, which were recited in Arabic, Farsi, and English, all through music.
Here is some feedback from the day: “It was an honour to participate in the SOPP program today. I could feel the peace and tranquillity permeate the room. May the energy that was experienced today extend beyond the room and touch others around the world.” “May the noble work that you do, continue to shed light amidst the darkness of our time.” “I believe that the world is a better place as a result of our time together this afternoon.”
In closing, we wish to thank all those who gave their blessings to this very special ceremony.
Rokeby, Australia: report by Anda McMillan and Jenny Funston
Approximately 30 people gathered on the 21st of May at the community hall at Rokeby, a small hamlet near Warragul in West Gippsland, to celebrate the Symphony of Peace Prayers. This was the first SOPP held in the Warragul area, with Anda McMillan organising. It was an exquisite, sunny day, and the love that flowed both in setting up in the morning and during the actual ceremony was tangible.
After a brief welcome and introduction by Anda, all participants honoured the local indigenous peoples (Gunai/Kurnai peoples) by reciting the Kurnai Blessing together. This blessing affirms humanity’s interdependence with the earth and with each other, and that we are all caretakers of the land. Elizabeth and Peter Medling then lit the Peace Flame, which signifies oneness and the flame of love that burns in our hearts.
The presentations commenced with Jenny Funston giving some background on the Symphony of Peace Prayers, the Fuji Declaration and the Soul of WoMen campaign, as these were new to most of the participants. Jenny was followed by Anne Bellavance, a senior office-bearer for both WFWP (Women’s Federation for World Peace) Australia and WFWP Oceania. Anne gave a wonderful overview of outreach initiatives run by WFWP in the Oceania region, highlighting the role of women.
The Interfaith presentations started with a wordless prayer for manifesting the divine nature of all humanity. This was followed by the reading of a brief message from the local Sakya Tibetan Buddhist representative, who was unable to attend in person. The message explained that the date was Vesak in the Tibetan tradition, and therefore the impact of all our prayers were magnified on this auspicious day.
Chris Duxbury, Uniting Church minister, read a prayer and all present then recited the prayer together. This format continued with prayer presentations from Chitra Sudarshan of the Hindu faith; Rev. Philip Muston, Anglican minister; Murray Lobley, Chairman of Gippsland Interfaith representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Anne Bellavance from Family Federation for World Peace and Unification; Bom Hyon Sunim, a nun from the Korean Zen Buddhist tradition; and Khatija Halabi of Muslim faith. The prayers concluded with the prayer May Peace Prevail on Earth. We were delighted to see that participants wholeheartedly joined in the sharing of prayers, even though this was their first experience of such an event.
During a brief interval, all present joined together in singing “One Song”, written by Mitchell J. Sharoff and beautifully led by Kathleen Willems on guitar. The world peace flag ceremony followed, and was introduced by Silvana Benacchio, who explained the significance of both the flags and the ceremony. The energy was palpable as more and more flags were blessed by the participants. The ceremony was particularly enjoyed by Khatija’s two young daughters! The flag ceremony flowed beautifully, and everyone seemed to be very engaged. Some participants had been to previous peace prayer ceremonies, but most had not.
Next came the singing of the song “We Are All Shining Divine Sparks”. This was very ably led by Jenny and Silvana. Fortunately, many of the audience were also accomplished singers! To conclude proceedings, Jenny led a global peace prayer meditation, to synthesise the day’s activities and confirm our interconnections with each other and the need for cooperation in the co-creation of peace on earth.
New connections were strengthened between participants over a delightful and delicious afternoon tea together! We got a great deal of positive feedback, such as, “It was a beautiful ceremony”, “More people should be doing this”, and “I am so glad to have come”. One participant commented: “What a sacred time we shared together! I feel truly blessed to have connected with this grassroots and spirited group of individuals!” Silvana said to us, “I felt that upon leaving, everyone was uplifted and changed in some way.”