11 events: Brisbane, Drouin, Geelong (Highton), Geelong (Newtown), Hovea, Little Swanport, Melbourne (Eltham), Melbourne (Gowanbrae), Narooma, Perth, St. Helens
Brisbane, Australia: report by Babs O’Connor
In Brisbane, six friends gathered to join in prayers for the peace of the world. We could feel the energy build and our hearts swell with love as the ceremony progressed. We believe that, with all the other prayers sent out by our brothers and sisters around the world, we will help to bring about world peace.
Drouin, Australia: report by Anda McMillan
Five people gathered for SOPP 2018 at a private home in Drouin. We opened our ceremony with the Divine Spark IN and everyone said a prayer for peace of their own choosing from a variety of cultures. A flag ceremony using postcard-sized flags of the world followed.
After refreshments, we tuned in to the live broadcast from Fuji Sanctuary. All present said they were deeply moved by the presentations, which were so heartfelt and created a bond of love across the globe. The speakers all provided hope and inspiration and gave impetus to the idea that together we can co-create the world we wish to see. It must have been magnificent being on the prayer field!
We had such a wonderful day, celebrating the SOPP and watching the live stream together.
Geelong, Australia (Highton): report by Jenny Funston
This year our event was held at my home to watch the live broadcast from Fuji Sanctuary. Seven of us shared this time, being touched deeply by the wonderful speeches delivered by Barbara Arredondo, Dr. Shlomo Alon, and Nimo Patel. There were plenty of tears shed during these three speeches as we felt the pure love emanate from their hearts.
Masami Saionji’s energy is always powerful, radiating strongly, and we felt bathed in her energy as well as the energy coming from the Sanctuary and everyone present. We all felt blessed to be ‘there’ with you all. We were reminded so powerfully of what Byakko brings to us individually and globally in growing world peace, through the prayers, the speeches, and the flag ceremony. Thank you also to those who translated the speeches into English—a fabulous job done by all!
I had a separate room set up with small A4 flags and an elements table. We had a brief ceremony here after the live stream to do a handover presentation of an award given to us by the Women’s Federation for World Peace. It was the Global Women’s Peace Network Partnership Award, accepted by Silvana Benacchio and Anda McMillan on my behalf on May 5th at a big ceremony in Melbourne that I was unable to attend. We have done many activities together over the past 5-6 years, and we were honoured to receive this award from them.
Geelong, Australia (Newtown): report by Robynne Mahoney
I connected with the SOPP in private from my home, lighting candles for peace and saying prayers for peace in each continent and country.
Hovea, Australia: report by Elaine George
33 of us met to celebrate this year’s SOPP in the natural setting of the Universal Great Brotherhood’s Hovea Ashram, which is located outside of Perth. What a beautiful day—perfect blue skies, with gum trees, several species of native plants and traditional fruit trees surrounding us!
Our master of ceremonies, Subraa Rajoo, gave a welcome address with the acknowledgement of friends from Nairobi, Kenya and a local Reiki group. Next came a ‘Welcome to Country,’ followed by a few moments of silence, to give our respect to the traditional owners of our land. Our hostess, Manita Beskow from the Universal Great Brotherhood, gave a welcome to everyone and an introduction to the Ashram.
Following this came one of the highlights of our ceremony: the three young voices of Ishika Kharola, Rishika Kharola and Puru Aron singing “We Are All Shining Divine Sparks.” After this, Eva Szauter, a peace advocate and long-time friend of the SOPP, shared some thoughts and experiences and read Masami Saionji’s message for this year’s SOPP.
Next came a change in format for us. Participants were invited to read a personal peace prayer or poem, if they chose to do so. Our personal prayers were accompanied by Arman Abednia softly playing his dutar, with several brief pauses to enable reflection on the prayers that were spoken.
On completion of each prayer, a written copy was then placed into a peace prayer basket that was to be placed in the ground, near the Ashram’s peace pole, later in the program. The basket was surrounded by a globe of the world, a peace pole and items representing the five physical elements: a lotus flower floating on top of a bowl of water, a candle to represent fire, incense to represent air, a bowl filled with local earth, and a clear quartz crystal to represent ether.
Our guests who chose not to read their prayer aloud were also invited to place a written copy of their prayer into the peace prayer basket. At this time, one participant was moved to say a spontaneous prayer asking for world healing, which was most moving and very powerful.
This was followed by a moving performance by Arman Abednia singing the song “What a Lord” in Farsi, with the words of the song having been read out in English and handed to participants beforehand.
Next came our flag ceremony. This year, we prepared new flags of the countries of the world with the help of some residents from an aged care facility where I work. The flags were carefully sorted into five continents by our grandchildren, with the help of their parents. This gave an intergenerational dimension that was very special to experience.
The introduction to our flag ceremony was given by John Bowkett. First he shared the prayer May peace prevail on Earth and explained its significance and origin. He then offered this prayer for each continent, as each participant in turn was given a bouquet of flags to carry to the Ashram’s Peace Pole to place around it, representing the oneness of our world with peace as its anchor.
The peace prayer basket filled with our prayers was then placed into the ground by Manita and myself near the peace pole, surrounded by many species of Australian trees and flora, to enable their roots and the peace pole to pick up the sentiment of our prayers, carrying them out and sharing them with the world.
Our program was rounded off with a shared meal to which each participant had contributed something reflecting their individual culture. We had our meal outdoors, overlooking our bush setting and the pre-sunset light. During this time, Eva also facilitated the creation of handwritten mandalas. Several participants expressed to me how much they enjoyed the tranquility and the coming together to create harmony, peace and unity among ourselves and in our world.
Little Swanport, Australia: report by Tom Teniswood
This year, we celebrated the SOPP outside around the Peace Fire. The sun was shining and there was a slight breeze. What better place to tell stories than around a fire?!
We had invited Aboriginal Elder Auntie Dawn Blazely to lead a morning session of kani mapali, or storytelling. We also had Dianne lead us in ‘heart’ meditation, which involved drawing a mandala from our meditation. All guests had their faces marked with ochre in the traditional Aboriginal way prior to starting.
Auntie Dawn gave a traditional ‘Welcome to Country’, acknowledging our ties to the land and nature, and also asking us to remember the Aboriginal servicemen who fought for Australia in various world conflicts, particularly those who did not return. She then told her story of being an Aboriginal child growing up in a racist society, from a family with very little, and moving frequently from place to place as her father found work. Dawn left school at an early age to find work to support herself and help her family. It was a tough life, but Dawn said there was plenty of love. Art played an important part in Dawn’s life and, as a mature student, she went on to university and gained a degree in fine arts. She later worked as an Elder in Residence at the University of Tasmania. Dawn stressed the need to share your story and, above all, remain true to yourself.
We formed two groups to share our own stories around the fire or to join Dianne in a meditation, at the conclusion of which we created a mandala of our experience. The groups then switched places, so we all had the opportunity to do both activities.
Conversations continued during lunch, and after lunch we were joined by some more guests who had travelled from Hobart to share in our flag ceremony. Ros Gregg read Masami Saionji’s message of welcome and acknowledgement of all those who were participating in SOPP around the world. The flag ceremony went smoothly and with sincerity as we all held up flags and called out the names of each country. This was done in groups of seven, after which everyone spoke, “May peace prevail on Earth,” and the flags were placed around the peace pole. This is a special ceremony and I still love watching the flags covering the ground.
We concluded our ceremony with the Divine Spark IN, performed by those who have been taught. Many of the others present joined in as well.
Melbourne, Australia (Eltham): report by Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson
This year’s Symphony of Peace Prayersceremony was again hosted at the Heartlight Centre for Conscious Living,which is our home in Eltham, a suburb of Melbourne. Heartlight has been hosting and facilitating SOPP ceremonies for the past seven years, and its mission includes promoting personal and planetary peace. We gathered on Saturday, May 19th, from 2-5 pm.
18 people attended the event. Multiple faiths and traditions were represented by prayers, and participants offered personal prayers for peace in the form of poems, passages, instrumental music, and the Dances of Universal Peace.
Everyone was blessed by the Welcome to Country and the playing of the didgeridoo led by Richard Williams who acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land of Australia. Richard is from the Wiradjuri people of New South Wales, and as heplayed the didgeridoo right into our heart centers, we were bathed in the beauty and healing of “The Dreamtime.” This was Richard’s fourth SOPP ceremony, and his presence was very special.
Each year, I provide a brief background of the world peace prayer movement and Byakko Shinko Kai, as well as reading aloud the message from Masami Saionji to all SOPP participants We also pray together for peace in all the regions of the world, and we offer a “Prayer for Harmony between Humanity and Nature”. This year, we also invited participants to pass around a lit candle and share personal prayers for specific situations throughout the world.
Among the participants this year was Diane Hewat, who has attended previous SOPP ceremonies, and she wrote and offered a beautiful poem for the occasion. Diane explained that she grew up in a country at war and is infinitely grateful to now be living in a country at peace.
The two of us performed the songs “Ancient Mother” and “An Instrument of Peace,” based on the Prayer of St Francis. And participants joined in the hymn, “This Is My Song.” 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, delicious offerings of the food brought by participants were enjoyed by everyone.
Melbourne, Australia (Gowanbrae): report by Fatima Felix
At 10 am on May 20, I started my private ceremony with prayers for world peace, followed by a series of wordless prayers. I then prayed for peace in each country and region on earth. When I finished, I watched part of the SOPP live from Japan.
Narooma, Australia: report by Trish Delaney-Davis
A small group of us watched the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary and held a peace meditation together.
Perth, Australia: report by Liz McPherson
During the SOPP, I was visiting my family in Perth.I took with me the little flag ceremony booklet I made during our New Year activity, allowing me to pray for each world nation with my family on the beach on a sunny Perth day.
St. Helens, Australia: report by Lucy Lewandowski
I offered prayers at home and performed the Divine Spark IN, sending out heartfelt wishes for peace in each country in the world.