Sharing Wisdom Far and Wide
The prayer leaders exited the stage to warm applause, after which the names of the distinguished guests attending this year’s event were read aloud, and each guest stood briefly from his or her seat to greet the participants. This growing network of support from leaders in a variety of fields plays a vital role in the SOPP’s mission of shifting humanity’s consciousness toward peace.
Back on stage, participants welcomed two guest speakers, both of whom have attended multiple SOPP ceremonies at Fuji Sanctuary in the past. The first, Ms. Barbara Arredondo from Mexico, works internationally as a cultural curator, entrepreneur, and advisor in various fields. The second, Dr. Shlomo Alon from Israel, is an Arabic language educator who has worked with the Israeli government, the United Religions Initiative, and the International Association for Religious Freedom.
Barbara Arredondo, Cultural Curator and Entrepreneur
I am very grateful to be here with each and every one of you for the fourth time at the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary. I like to think of this as my second home. I am very grateful to Byakko Shinko Kai, the World Peace Prayer Society, and the Goi Peace Foundation. It’s an honor to celebrate with you the third anniversary of the Fuji Declaration.
Goi Sensei, I feel that you are here with us today and it is a blessing to continue participating in what you once created so many years ago. It’s great to know that (this movement) that one person started all began with a prayer for world peace. I am so happy to be part of this revolution of love, divinity, and hope.
Masami Sensei, today I honor you and your lifetime devotion to creating a world of peace—to creating a world of hope, oneness, harmony and truth. I also would like to honor everyone at Byakko Shinko Kai—all the volunteers, as well as Rika, Maki, Yuka, and Hiroo Saionji. Thank you for all the love, every day, that you have put into creating a happier and more peaceful world for all of us.
Before I share my message, I would like to share with you a brief story about a small indigenous community in Mexico. They are called Chamula. When they greet each other they do not say “Hello.” They greet each other by asking, “How is your heart?” I would like you to please close your eyes, place your right hand on your heart, and join me in saying out loud, “I am here.” Thank you.
Every day, we are given a unique opportunity to create, to learn from the past so that we can walk into the future, but most of all, to be present. Every day, we are given the opportunity to ask ourselves who we are and why we are here.
Recently, historians have shared with us that today, war and violence rates are lower than at any other time in recent history. This is, indeed, wonderful news, but it also means that now, we face challenges in different ways and forms. Researchers foresee that we now face challenges related to mental health, nutrition, and climate change. This makes me wonder, how can we take better care of Mother Earth? How can we take better care of our health and the health of others? And most of all, how can we be of better service to those who surround us? How do we know if our work, or what we do, has any meaning? I think, maybe, it’s time for us as humankind to evolve to a place where we give much more value and importance to feeling than to knowing.
I would like to share with you an experience my friends and I recently had while visiting Mount Nachi. We decided to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, and while walking the Kumano Kodo, I realized that the steps we take make our paths. I am uncertain of what will happen in the future, but I am certain that we are all responsible for what is to come. And so, I am here only as a humble messenger to remind you and to ask you to please never stop believing in the power of your words, in the power of your actions, and in the feelings that you give to your intentions. Please do not stop living in a world of love, truth, and hope. At the end of the day, that is all that matters. That is all that we are, and what truly remains.
In my brief experience, I have learned that the work of peace is a balance between being both soft and strong. Please do not be afraid of your strength, and do not be afraid of your love.
Whenever I feel fear, doubt, or unrest, I close my eyes and think of Fuji Sanctuary and all of you. I think of your prayers, the work you do, and the love that you share with us across the world. It’s a wonderful feeling to realize that when one person prays with love and kindness, the world prays, too. May peace prevail on Earth. Thank you so much.
Dr. Shlomo Alon, Former Head of Arabic Studies in the Israeli Ministry of Education
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to speak about the SOPP in my life. About ten years ago, I had the privilege to attend the SOPP and to meet Mrs. Masami Saionji, the Chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai, and her family members.
This meeting was an outcome of the devotion of grassroots supporters involved with Byakko Shinko Kai. Those supporters provided, through their donations, the airfare and the accommodations for my Palestinian colleagues and for me, as a sincere act of bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians closer.
This meeting changed my life. It also changed the life of my family. My daughter, Tamar, identified herself with my emotion and love for Byakko and the SOPP, and began working with me and many of her friends for peace in Israel, in the Middle East, and around the globe.
This year, we are now here, due to your support, dear Byakko members. We are three generations—my daughter Tamar, her young baby Lavie, and me—together at the SOPP. This is a continuation of many visits to the SOPP of dear educators from my country, all supported by you, Byakko members.
‘Praying with the Religions of the World’ began changing my deep feelings about prayers, and I started understanding the real meaning of ‘building peace with prayer.’ The SOPP is a place of spirituality, of peace and friendship between human beings, and I’m blessed to feel it every year, more and more. After each gathering at Fuji Sanctuary, I return to my home in Jerusalem with more relaxation and a greatersense of humbleness and gratitude.
The SOPP has given me, during the years, more energy to strive for achieving peace and harmony in our troubled region, the Middle East. This is also the feeling of all my colleagues, who were supported by you and became active in their work for peace and reconciliation. The SOPP has become, during the years, my community, and my family.
Since my first trip to you, almost every year I have met grassroots members of Byakko visiting Jerusalem and other sites in Israel, travelling on their own expenses, and working with students and educators, both Jews and Arabs, on programs of peace and harmony. I know that without their constant support, I and others could not attend the SOPP. Thank you, dear supporters!
I’m a member of a religious Jewish community in Jerusalem, Israel, but here at the SOPP, I’m a member of a spiritual community who prays for all religions, for all human beings, young and old, poor and rich, near and far, weak and strong. I’m deeply impressed by the prayers of the people who come to the SOPP to pray, regardless of the weather, in rain and in storms, covering all their expenses by themselves.
At the SOPP, I was lucky to find the ‘shining divine spark’ of my spirituality. Thank you, Goi Sensei and Chairperson Masami. Thank you, members of Byakko Shinko Kai. Thank you, SOPP. Thank you, Japan.