Opening with Gratitude
It was a day of changeable weather in the Asagiri Highlands as participants and guests arrived at Fuji Sanctuary beginning early in the morning. The ceremony began under blue skies which then clouded over, and for a time, a gentle rain fell on the prayer field before the sun came out once again.
In the central plaza, staff and volunteers distributed program booklets, welcomed guests, offered books and other goods for sale, and handled all sorts of tasks in preparation for the start of the program. A special exhibit this year highlighted the participation of Masami and Rika Saionji in the “4.27 DMZ International Peace Conference” that took place in April at the border of North and South Korea. Event organizer Dr. Peter Jiseok Jung would later be welcomed on stage as a keynote speaker. The exhibit panel read as follows:
“Hand-in-Hand” for Peace at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
On April 26-27, 2019, Byakko Chairperson Masami Saionji and Vice Chair Rika Saionji participated in an international peace conference and a peace vigil entitled “Hand in Hand.” The events took place in Cheorwon, South Korea, at the border of the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea. There, Masami and Rika joined with many others in praying for peace, and deepened their connections with peace activists from around the world.
Exactly one year earlier, a historic inter-Korean summit was held at the House of Peace located in the Joint Security Area. President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and North Korean Leader Kim Jung-un shook hands with smiles on their faces, and each leader crossed the border into the other nation’s territory.
To mark the anniversary of this summit, Dr. Peter Jiseok Jung organized the “Hand-in-Hand” peace march and vigil, in which hundreds of thousands of people walked and joined hands along the DMZ in a citizens’ call for the peace and reunification of North and South Korea.
Dr. Jung is the founder and director of the Border Peace School in Cheorwon, and has been working for many years for the cause of peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula, as well as the peace of the world. He felt that, to achieve reunification, what was most needed was a peace movement based on the consciousness of each individual citizen, and this vision led to the creation of “Hand-in-Hand.”
Over 4,000 people filled the outdoor prayer field. On stage, an ornate mandala design formed the center of the backdrop, radiating outward in luminous shades of pink and purple. At 10 am, just before the start of the ceremony, Ms. Fumi Johns Stewart of May Peace Prevail on Earth International began hosting the live internet broadcast, welcoming viewers and introducing them to the SOPP and host organization Byakko Shinko Kai. “All the people gathered here have come to serve humanity, to offer their prayers for peace, and to create a large energy field of love, light, compassion, and goodwill. From here, we will send our message of peace—send this energy field of love and light—out to the world.”
At 10:15, the ceremony began, with opening remarks from Tomohiko Naya and Masami Saionji, the president and chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai.
Tomohiko Naya, President of Byakko Shinko Kai
I am truly grateful to all of you for gathering here at Fuji Sanctuary today, taking time out of your busy schedules to travel here from all across Japan and abroad. Thank you.
To begin, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our distinguished guests and prayer leaders, to people from the local community, and to all of the participants for coming here today. Thanks to your passion, dedication, and support, this year marks the fifteenth annual SOPP.
We are holding this SOPP at a pivotal time for Japan, as the new imperial era, Reiwa, has just started. Fuji Sanctuary is situated at the foot of sacred Mount Fuji, which is a symbol of the Japanese heart that wishes for world peace and cherishes a spirit of harmony. Therefore, I think it will be wonderful if we can spread this Japanese heart to the world through our prayers at today’s SOPP.
Today, SOPP gatherings and prayers are being held at various locations around the world, and a great many individuals are connecting spiritually with Fuji Sanctuary. As we connect with them, I believe that the divine energy of our prayers—which comes from the essence of life itself—is laying a solid foundation for world peace. I am filled with renewed hope, and I wholeheartedly wish that the prayers being sent out around the world will make the divine sparks within all humanity shine even brighter, and that today will be a meaningful day for all of us.
Lastly, I would like to express my deep gratitude to those who have sent messages of support to the SOPP from Japan and abroad. Thank you very much.
Masami Saionji, Chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai
It is an honor for me to gather here with you at Fuji Sanctuary, transcending our religious differences to offer prayers for peace from various faiths and to pray for the peace and happiness of the whole world.
Today, the world is faced with many difficult challenges, with a wide range of political leaders in charge of each nation. Depending on the leaders we elect, we can help bring about liberty, peace, and prosperity in our country, or we can put our nation on a path to conflicts, discrimination, and war. So, the direction we take is not entirely in the hands of our political leaders—it depends on the consciousness of each citizen who elects those leaders. Every human being and every living thing has equal rights and freedoms, and possesses a future filled with hope. Every single human being, without exception, is a radiant, divine being.
Many of you here today may be dealing with various worries, anxieties, and health issues. But today, let us put those issues aside and focus our consciousness on asking what we can do to contribute to the peace and happiness of humanity, and to the sustainability of life on earth. We have gathered here from across Japan and many parts of the world with this strong sense of responsibility and will. I am delighted and filled with hope to be able to hold this SOPP ceremony together with such noble, high-minded people as yourselves.
The seeds for creating a better world, free of conflict and discrimination, originate in your noble, divine consciousness. The future depends on your continued existence and your continued prayers. I can say this because I am supported every day by your prayers for peace. If it were not for your efforts and support, we would not be able to gather here at Fuji Sanctuary and offer prayers for peace, transcending our religious and cultural differences. Even with the problems and concerns you are facing on an individual level, you are still able to pray ‘May peace prevail on Earth.’ It is this noble consciousness that is always so deeply moving, and for which I am so very grateful. Thank you so much.