10 events: Boston, Chicago, Croton Falls, Gardena, Iowa City, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Sandpoint (2 events), and Seattle
Boston, Massachusetts, United States: report by Channa Riley
On May 15th I was in Boston, Massachusetts, with my fiancé (now my husband), my sister, her husband, and their two children—my 12 year old niece and 8 year old nephew. We read the Fuji Declaration and the purpose of the Soul of WoMen campaign and began our flag ceremony to link in and add our prayers to the global Symphony of Peace Prayers. This was the first time I held a peace prayer ceremony with my sister and family. It was very special to be with them, and my niece and nephew were engaged and fully participating for the entire ceremony. It was moving to be with them and with the entire global community.
Chicago, Illinois, United States: report by Jennifer Kim
Members and friends gathered at the Peace School in Chicago, starting at the same time as the beginning of the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary. We did a Peace Breathing Meditation and a Call to Peace for all countries, with the countries grouped together by regions of the world. We also performed wordless prayers for peace together. The last portion of our gathering was silent meditation during the 15 minute Synchronized Global Meditation. The energy was very strong, and we felt a deep connection with Fuji Sanctuary and with those participating around the world. Earlier in the day, we held our regular 90 minute practice of Meditation, Call to Peace and wordless prayers, which we do each Saturday. Prior to the event we publicized information about the Soul of WoMen campaign through our email list. We were happy and honored to be part of this event!
Croton Falls, NY, United States: report by Rev. Deborah Moldow
The Chapel at Croton Falls held its sixth annual Symphony of Peace Prayers on May 15, 2016, as part of its monthly series of Interfaith Sundays. Last year, the special occasion was the signing of the Fuji Declaration. This year, the theme was the inspiring Soul of WoMen global campaign that emerged from the Fuji Declaration and was being celebrated on the same day at Fuji Sanctuary.
The service was led by Rev. Melanie Noblit-Gambino, a non-denominational Interfaith HLCC Healing Minister. Rev. Melanie invited Paola Storchi of Italy to read Masami Saionji’s uplifting message. She then led a Universal Worship Service featuring peace prayers from the Sufi, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Native American, and Christian traditions, which were read by Rev. Gary Deinstadt and other participants.
Next, we had a presentation of two wordless prayers invoking the divine nature of all human beings. Reiko Kamozawa led a breathing meditation and distributed copies of The Rebirth of Our Sacred Consciousness by Masami Saionji and a recent issue of the English Byakko magazine. The wisdom in these booklets resonated the following Sunday, when church member Terri Stockburger stood up to announce with gratitude that she had learned from Mrs. Saionji that we bring God in with every breath, and that breathing itself can be a spiritual practice!
A discussion of the Soul of WoMen campaign followed, linking with the event at Mount Fuji, where the Chapel’s Interfaith Sunday coordinator, Rev. Deborah Moldow, was among the guests. Then, everyone took part in a World Peace Prayer Ceremony, sending a prayer for peace to every country of the world as its flag was presented, while creating a colorful mandala of flags around a peace pole. The ceremony was accompanied by a beautiful “May Peace Prevail on Earth” chant composed by Miriam “Sita” Zernis.
The Chapel at Croton Falls is grateful to Rev. Melanie and proud to be part of the global network offering prayers for peace.
Gardena, California, United States: report by Tatsuo Ide
Congratulations on the 12th annual Symphony of Peace Prayers and the Soul of WoMen campaign! Here at the Byakko Los Angeles dojo, we continued last year’s tradition of gathering to watch the live internet broadcast. This year, all the participants excluding myself were people who had taken part in the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary last year. They were all surprised to see how clearly we could view the event online, and in real time. From here in the United States, we were captivated by the beautiful images of Fuji Sanctuary.
As the ceremony began, we were surprised to see the photos and text that were displayed just for people watching online, making everything very easy to understand. In addition, through Masami Saionji’s deep consideration in giving thanks to our group and to other friends of ours, we felt a strong sense of unity, like the whole world had become one.
During the Praying with the Religions of the World program, we prayed along with everyone at Fuji Sanctuary. This program embodies the essence of the SOPP—transcending differences in faith and culture to pray for world peace—and living in an area with a great deal of ethnic and religious diversity, we took great pride in joining in the prayers for peace. Our prayers naturally deepened as we remembered their larger purpose—the rebirth of our sacred consciousness and the realization of a world where all life is connected as one.
We very much liked the Soul of WoMen logo design, and we were reminded of when Taira Tanaka, former President of Byakko Shinko Kai, visited us at the end of April. His explanation of the Soul of WoMen campaign left a deep impression on us. As the SoW Global Network Gathering participants stood in front of the pink backdrop and offered their messages in English, which were then translated into Japanese, we were doubly moved by their deeply meaningful words.
Mr. James Twyman, who is well known among our group, gave a performance that was filled with the profound love of the divine feminine. We sang along as we lost ourselves in the music. The wonderful prayer-filled vibration reached all the way to Los Angeles, and the dojo was filled with a gentle atmosphere.
The flag ceremony is always magnificent, and we learned a lot from the style in which it was performed, where the flags are presented from both the left and right sides, and are held firmly rather than waved, so that participants can see them clearly. With the stately music playing in the Prayer Field, the colorful array of flags and the unwavering earnestness of the flag bearers made for a remarkable ceremony, honoring the national divinities of each country. When we saw the flag of the United States presented on stage, our dojo was filled with joyful cheers. We even made our own video of the video broadcast!
When Yuka Saionji gave her closing remarks, there was not a dry eye among us. We felt that every word of her speech radiated light and resonated with the divine beings that reside within us. Here in the United States, we continue to see a surge of fear and anxiety, and for this reason, the divine feminine qualities of healing, forgiveness, and love sent out at this year’s SOPP are very much needed. We will continue planting seeds of peace, with the belief that even the smallest seed is sure to grow and blossom. Furthermore, as existences in which the feminine and masculine blend together in harmony, we are resolved to dissolve our prejudices and fixed ideas. Yuka Saionji’s message gave us a clear vision and a sense of courage to create a new future. Thank you, everyone!
Iowa City, Iowa, United States: report by Dawn Jones, Kathy Mitchell, and Ed Flaherty
At the Peace Pole outside the Iowa City Public Library, we held a combined celebration of the Symphony of Peace Prayers and International Conscientious Objectors Day. Approximately 50 people participated. Several conscientious objectors spoke. White poppies with the text, “To all those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill. Their foresight and courage give us hope,” were distributed. The poem “Conscientious Objector” was read and “Taps” was played, with special thoughts for deceased local war resister Steve Marsden and for recently departed Daniel Berrigan.
Then, the SOPP ceremony began with the ringing of a bell. Countries were called by name, and the attendees voiced their wish for peace for each nation and the people living there. The songs “Imagine” and “What a Wonderful World” were sung, and Dove chocolates and origami cranes were given out to participants.
Yunhua Yu, Visiting Professor of Mathematics, and Yunxia Chu, Visiting Scholar at the University of Iowa writers program, participated in the peace ceremony, and Noriko Ichihara of Tokyo furnished the national flag cards.
Oakland, California, United States: report by Kai Neptune
We celebrated the Symphony of Peace Prayers in the hills of Oakland on May 15th. It was a beautiful day. We came together to celebrate our diversity, and together held a powerful peace ceremony to connect to the world in peace prayers.
We started out with my son Thomas, who is 2 years old, playing nice music with the synthesizer keyboard (this was unplanned!). As the host, I welcomed people and invited PJ Hirabayashi to give a TaikoPeace performance to open and clear the space for prayer and connectivity to the world.
After this beautiful performance, I read and shared an important message from Masami Saionji about the importance of our prayers and the revival of the sacred feminine, including the start of the Soul of WoMen campaign. We then had six people come up to offer prayers from different spiritual faiths and backgrounds, and each of them offered their prayer from the heart. At the end, Nicky from the Committee of South African Solidarity, Oakland chapter, talked about their movement and efforts for South Africa.
This was followed by a prayer ceremony for peace in each country, with cards of the flags of the world. Everyone concentrated intently and prayed together deeply, and we ended with a short meditation visualizing world peace. During the whole ceremony, Angie Spinelli played beautiful music on the keyboard.
Next, we took some time to pass the microphone around for everyone participating to offer their vision of ‘world peace.’ Some people said just a few words and others shared more, but we were all in a space of power and creativity as we listened and shared. It was a wonderful activity, and we will definitely include it in our program again.
We completed the ceremony with great gratitude and gifts of peace dolls, which everyone enjoyed. To conclude, we enjoyed each other’s company with a potluck dinner.
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States: report by Chiyomi Prasitratsint
On May 15, it was a beautiful day in Salt Lake City. Nine neighbors from my apartment building gathered in our common room and prayed for peace on earth to connect with the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary. We prayed by region, followed by a moment of silence for world peace. Our youngest participant was a six-month old boy name Paxton, a future hope for peace!
Even though we were a small group, we voiced our prayers loudly as we earnestly prayed for peace. It was as if our prayers melted into the large stream of energy being sent out from the event at Fuji Sanctuary and other gatherings worldwide, covering and embracing the earth. As soon as we finished the ceremony, one of the participants said, “Let’s do it next year!” Another remarked, “I hope the wishes and prayers said around the world will have a happy influence on others.”
Sandpoint, Idaho, United States (Cynthia’s Preschool): report by Cynthia Mason
The SOPP was celebrated at Cynthia’s Preschool & Kindergarten in Sandpoint, Idaho, on May 13th. We began our ceremony by doing ‘sound yoga’ with the elders in an assisted living facility. There were 8 children and approximately 12 adults. We sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and offered a special wordless prayer of gratitude for trees. Afterwards, we returned to the preschool, where we gathered around our peace pole and prayed “May Peace Prevail on Earth”. We came inside and gathered around a map of the world. We sent prayers of peace to each of the continents.
Sandpoint, Idaho, United States (Presbyterian Church): report by Keiko Lewis
A small peace ceremony was held at the peace pole at First Presbyterian Church in Sandpoint, Idaho, on Sunday May 15th, led by Pastor Andy Kennaly. The same group had a beautiful peace pole dedication ceremony last September, on the International Day of Peace.
Seattle, Washington, United States: report by Nao Valente
On May 14th, we had a great SOPP and Soul of WoMen campaign celebration in Seattle! To open the event, a group of us performed a wordless prayer for the peace and awakening of humanity, and then I read Masami Saionji’s message about the Soul of WoMen campaign to all participants. This year, leaders from the Sufi Islam, Jewish, Native American, and Christian communities attended the event, and they talked about gender discrimination in their own religious histories, and about healing and forgiveness.
We also had a special new group of people who are working on reconciliation between men and women. They introduced their workshop and we practiced it all together. It was a great success, and all the prayer leaders and participants said that they were appreciative of this campaign towards reawakening the feminine and creating a new world.