8 events: Binalong Bay, Brisbane, Geelong, Little Swanport, Melbourne (Eltham), Perth, Rokeby, Winchelsea
Binalong Bay, Australia: report by Ros Gregg
A group of 11 beautiful souls gathered at Jeanneret Beach in Binalong Bay to celebrate the Symphony of Peace Prayers. As we acknowledged the ancestors of the land and prepared our energy fields for the occasion, two forest ravens called a welcome as they flew through the treetops. We explored the different forms of prayer, focusing on the importance and power of positive words as we sent positive words and thoughts out into the global consciousness.
After listening to Masami Saionji’s message to overseas SOPP events, we held a flag ceremony to pray for peace in each country and region, bringing our awareness to our connection worldwide. We closed in joy-filled song, then had a sharing of food and drinks.
Many participants commented on the specialness of the day. As always, I felt honored to be sharing the magic of prayer and positive words with the love of my friends. We were privileged to share the day with all those who came together for the SOPP around the world. It was a beautiful and rewarding experience to be part of a worldwide prayer for peace.
Brisbane, Australia: report by Babs O’Connor
12 of us met at the Unitarian Church on May 14, where we held a wonderful flag ceremony incorporating prayers from various traditions, singing and fellowship. Many of the people attending had not experienced a flag ceremony before, however all expressed their heartfelt interest in hosting another ceremony.
Geelong, Australia: report by Robynne Mahoney
This year, I opted to join in this special day quietly from home. On the morning of May 14, I said peace prayers for Earth, humanity and all countries and regions of the world, along with prayers of gratitude. I followed these with wordless prayers and a short meditation. To finish, I listened to the song “Imagine” performed by Eva Cassidy. Thank you to everyone from all over the world who spoke with one heart to pray with one voice for peace. It was a privilege to join my heart and my voice with yours on that special day.
Little Swanport, Australia: report by Tom Teniswood
Our SOPP gathering in Little Swanport, Tasmania, was held on May 20th with a group of seven participants. With very heavy rain forecast, we decided that our ceremony would be indoors.
The ceremony opened with an acknowledgement of the Indigenous Peoples of the world and in particular the traditional owners of this land. As I was speaking, I became very much aware of the significance of this ‘acknowledgement’, as Jane and I are preparing to ‘hand back’ to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community a significant portion of our property, which has considerable connection to the Aboriginal people.
After the lighting of the World Peace Flame, Terry led us through a beautiful meditation, and Jane read Masami Saionji’s message, which provoked some discussion of what is happening in the world today. We shared a prayer for the oneness of all living things, and then settled down to hear the premiere performance of Teresa Drodz’s new piano composition, “Lullaby for a Crying Planet”, accompanied in this performance by a crackling fire!
I had recently received from Jenny Funston some copies of Akiko Moriya’s book, A Poem in Praise of Each Country, with the message “Please keep one copy for self and gift the others where you feel guided”. How infinitely perfect—each participant now has a copy of this delightful book, and we had a lovely time selecting a country and reading the poem for it, a great way to lead in to the flag ceremony. At the conclusion of the flag ceremony, we shared the prayer “Creation of the Universe” from Fuji Sanctuary, followed by Teresa playing more of her music.
We shared lunch, memories, thoughts and so much more—a small but perfect SOPP. As one participant commented, “The warmth in that room cannot help but send positive energy into the universe.”
Melbourne (Eltham), Australia: report by Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson
The Heartlight Centre for Conscious Living hosted this year’s SOPP ceremony at the home of Rev. Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson in Eltham, a suburb of Melbourne.
Each year, we begin our ceremony by acknowledging, thanking, and honouring the traditional Aboriginal landowners and caretakers of Australia. We recognise the indigenous elders and the spirit of those who have come before us and who have lived in harmony with the land for more than 60,000 years.
We always include the “Prayer for Harmony between Humanity and Nature” (from Fuji Sanctuary) in our ceremony, and this year we also invited participants to offer personal prayers for the Earth. As each candle was lit and prayers were said, our hearts opened wide with love and gratitude for Mother Gaia. We then joined together in the song “Great Spirit,” with drumming and percussion instruments to honour the Earth and our purpose in the SOPP ceremony.
One of the highlights of this year’s SOPP was the sharing of poems from a beautifully written and illustrated book by Akiko Moriya, entitled A Poem in Praise of Each Country, Volume 1. We selected several poems to represent countries from all different regions of the world. We were all so impressed with the commitment to peace and the love for all the countries of the world that was clearly apparent in Akiko’s 25-year-long peace project.
Our ceremony also included the message from Mrs. Saionji to all SOPP participants, a prayer on behalf of all the major traditions and faiths of the world, and praying for peace in each region of the world. At the end of the ceremony everyone was invited to participate in three Universal Dances of Peace—“For the Beauty of the Earth,” “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” and the “Benediction Dance,” based on a prayer from the founder of the interfaith movement known as International Sufism.
Perth, Australia: report by John Bowkett and Elaine George
Those present at our 2017 Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony had an experience of how little things grow into big things, from ideas and thoughts, to pen and paper, to teamwork to set it all up, to a living reality. The identified purpose of our venue for this year’s ceremony, Hovea Ashram, was to provide a physical and spiritual environment in which people from all walks of life can engage in the diverse possibilities of peace. This intention was experienced through the words, song, music, prayer, dance and spoken meditations of our remarkable prayer leaders, musicians and guests.
Rokeby, Australia: report by Jenny Funston
The SOPP for the Warragul area was held at the community hall in Rokeby on Saturday, May 20th. We set up in the morning for a 1:45 pm start. The event was organized and executed by Anda McMillan.
The afternoon began with an opening address by Anda, welcoming all and reading part of the poem “To Love” by Masahisa Goi. A ‘Welcome to Country’ was given by Kurnai elder Cheryl Drayton. She told the participants that upon being asked to be present at the SOPP, she had looked at the SOPP website, finding that all within it resonated fully with her traditional aboriginal beliefs. I found her words very reaffirming of all we do.
Margaret Mooney, a stalwart of interfaith dialogue in Victoria and beyond, was the lighter of our Peace Flame. This flame represents the love that burns in our heart and our desire for peace for all humanity, and it has a direct lineage to the Eternal Flame at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
I gave the participants a quick overview of the work of Byakko, the Fuji Declaration and Soul of WoMen. I also spoke about prayer residing in feeling, not in words or actions. We then read the Fuji Declaration together. Murray Lobley, Chair of Gippsland Interfaith, gave us a brief overview of the various projects run by the Gippsland Ethnic Communities Council. It was really interesting to hear about the diverse range of activities through which they are empowering people and encouraging a broader perspective.
Following this, we had prayers from various faith representatives. The groups and traditions represented included the Uniting Church, Women for World Peace, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Islam, and Zen Buddhism. Kathleen Willems then led everyone in a walking, singing, breath meditation to cultivate our inner stillness.
Silvana Benacchio and Mary Anne Keating conducted the World Peace Flag Ceremony. This is always a joyous event, with everyone circling the centre table, placing flags in the stands. Our final items were singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” followed by a Global Peace Meditation. During this last part of the formal program, we all held hands around the flag/elements table. Our joyous celebration concluded with afternoon tea and plenty of informal chatting with those who attended. It was a magnificent SOPP!
Winchelsea, Australia: report by Jenny Funston
Our SOPP celebration in the Geelong area took place this year on May 7th at a private home in Winchelsea. The weather was kind, with mainly sunshine and occasional clouds and wispy rain. It was the end of autumn, so we were blessed to be able to be outside.
Overall, thirty people attended, including members of Geelong Interfaith Network as well as a few new faces. Two South Sudanese men came late in our ceremony but we were able to have a lovely sharing with them, too. They especially loved the flag ceremony. The day before our event, four of us had visited with people from the Ballarat Interfaith for a ‘walking the land’ with an indigenous elder at Lal Lal Falls. One of their members came to our SOPP and enjoyed it.
We lit our Peace Flame to begin, immediately after the welcome and honouring of traditional caregivers to the land, both past, present and future, with all people being able to take a small peace flame candle home at the end of the day.
We prayed a combined, multi-faith prayer, with lines from the prayers of various faiths, which we all read together. We then had representatives from the Catholic, Protestant, Sunni Muslim, and Sikh faiths, the Universal Peace Federation, and a representative for general spirituality (as some people don’t have a formal faith) lead us in prayers from those faiths and traditions. A peace prayer from Byakko Shinko Kai was offered as well.
Silvana Benacchio led a gentle meditation where everyone held onto their individual prayer that they had written prior to the ceremony. Then we all placed our prayers in the hole we had dug for a new peace pole. It was lovely to be able to plant a new peace pole on our friends’ farmland.
We all read the Fuji Declaration together and sang “We are all Shining Divine Sparks”. Mention was made of the Soul of WoMen campaign and the importance of balancing the feminine and masculine energies on our planet in everyday life.
As always, the flag ceremony was a highlight and enjoyed by all. It was fantastic to be able to do it outdoors this year! Words from Masami Saionji were shared, with the ceremony culminating in our own Global Peace Meditation. Afterwards, we shared afternoon tea on the veranda, overlooking the green landscape and the water.