9 events: Brisbane, Freemantle, Geelong, Hovea, Little Swanport, Loch, Melbourne, Milingimbi, Narooma
report by Babs O’Connor
On a cold and windy day in Brisbane, five friends and peace lovers gathered together and dedicated their afternoon to saying uplifting prayers from many different faiths and performing a flag ceremony. We all agreed on the universal message of kindness, love, and Peace echoed in each religion’s prayer, while the flag ceremony left us feeling uplifted and joyous.
report by Elaine George
A desire to revisit our peace pole planted in November 2015,along with the support of the East Fremantle Baha’i community,brought 15 people together in harmony to reflect, pray, and meditate for universal peace in Queens Square, Central Fremantle.
The blue skies and sunshine tempted us to leave the immediate area of our peace pole and venture onto the grassed area in the center of the park, and although the passing traffic interrupted our proceedings at times, it was an enjoyable time, and the poignancy of the prayers created a beautiful experience, with those present asking for the program to be repeated regularly.
Information on the success of the initiatives of Byakko Shinko Kai, Fuji Sanctuary, the Peace Pole Project, and the Symphony of Peace Prayers was shared. Each participant in turn spoke a line from a multi-faith prayer—‘Our United Prayer to Honour The Sacred of Many Names’—and individual prayers from different faiths were read aloud, interspersed with peace songs arranged by the very talented Asha Kiani from our Baha’i young adult community and beautifully played on her guitar.
With the support of our guests, we certainly are planning on having another gathering soon.
report by Jenny Funston
We held our ceremony at the Eastern Gardens in Geelong (a blessing after the summer drought). As I started to read Masami Saionji’s message to SOPP overseas events right at the beginning of our ceremony, the sun suddenly shone brightly—surely a most beautiful sign! The Eastern Gardens is a magnificent setting, looking out to the sea and the You Yangs beyond—the small mountain range so important to our local indigenous population.
We were a small group of Byakko satellite members who gather regularly, so the energy was high and focused. Simplicity was my guide for this year, along with the strong desire to be out in the open. All were accomplished.
Our program went as follows: welcome, message from Masami Saionji, flag ceremony, poems of gratitude by Masami Saionji, a combined prayer for all faiths and spiritual traditions, and a holding of hands around the table upon which had been placed many of the flags, with a Global Peace Meditation for the closure.
The ceremony was filled with joy, sunshine and peace. Upon completion and packing up, we all adjourned to the nearby teahouse at the Botanical Gardens, where we enjoyed a ‘cuppa’ and something to eat. From there, some of us walked over to the peace pole and performed the Divine Spark IN, accompanied by the chairperson and secretary of Geelong Interfaith, representatives of the Baha’i and Universal Peace Federation communities.
One participant gave the following comment after the ceremony: “What a truly magnificent setting for our SOPP ceremony, surrounded by trees and the sea in the background. As soon as the ceremony began, the sun began to shine on us! I loved the flowing colour and movement of all the peace flags as we carried them in and out and around the rotunda. It was a beautiful reminder of the SOPP in Japan, which is out in nature, and how we are connected to everyone and everything. Silvana led a lovely Global Peace Meditation to complete the ceremony. Infinite Gratitude! Infinite Peace. Infinite Accomplishment!”
report by Elaine George and John Bowkett
Once again over 35 guests gathered on May 12th in the natural sanctuary of the Great Universal Brotherhood, Dr de la Ferrière Foundation Hovea Ashram, adjacent to Western Australia’s first national park in the Perth Hills.
The weather was kind, with beautiful sunshine filtering through the abundance of leaves surrounding us and although the filtered light reduced the quality of many of our photos, the beauty created with the interaction of the light onto our flags and other decorations assisted in creating a very bright atmosphere.
Our Master of Ceremonies Subraa Rajoo and Hostess Manita Beskow, Coordinator and Resident of Hovea Ashram, welcomed us and introduced the program, which was opened with the lighting of our peace candle by Manita, supported by Eva Gault and myself. This was followed by the five children present singing “We Are All Shining Divine Sparks” with their brand new upbeat style. This certainly was a highlight, with the children first singing the song alone then repeating it with all present joining in.
Masami Saionji’s message for this year’s SOPP was once again beautifully shared by our long time friend and peace advocate Eva Gault. Our flag ceremony segment, presented by Sant Nirankri Mission’s Naveen Rahul, was one of unity with the focus on the world being but one country and all humankind its citizens. The prayer “Peace in Today’s World” by Shruti, a young representative from Sant Nirankrii Mission, enforced this vision.
A multi-faith Prayer entitled “Our United Prayer to Honour the Sacred of Many Names,” gifted to us by Jenny Funston, was beautifully and powerfully presented by Raajen Rajoo. Next, Raajen facilitated the speaking of prayers from our gathering. The formal part of our program was concluded with a Baha’i prayer, beautifully sung by Shahla Bahremand.
Some feedback received included: “Great program with a feeling of unity and peace being generated,” and, “Raajen’s presentation of the multi-faith prayer was a powerful and beautiful portrayal of how all faiths and religions are basically saying the same thing”. Others commented that they believe that the world is already a better place as a result of our time together this afternoon.
Little Swanport, Australia
report by Jenny Funston
On Saturday, May 18th, we gathered at Windsong in Little Swanport, Tasmania, with Tom and Jane Teniswood and others to celebrate the SOPP. Tom and Jane recently gifted 110 hectares back to the indigenous population. They had a formal handing over at least a month earlier.
The weather was sunny but cool. People began to gather with picnic lunches from 11am, with Jane coordinating a circle around the house peace pole to begin the ceremony, before making their way across the paddocks either on foot or in cars to the area called ‘Paradise,’ where the ceremony was to be held. All got under way at about 2pm, with over 80 people in attendance, which was awesome.
A Welcome to Country was given by Fiona, the daughter of Elder Dawn Blazely, who performed the same honour at Tom and Jane’s last year. This was heartfelt, as the land has only recently been handed back to the indigenous of Tasmania by Tom and Jane. A special peace pole was planted, with the indigenous language of the area upon it.
A world peace flag ceremony followed, with great participation—from a cuddled one year old to people in their eighties. I had taken the small handmade flag set with me on the plane. It really was a joyful occasion. People loved that there was a flag for ‘all the other regions of the world’. I explained about the flags and the ceremony before we began and people told me they appreciated this, too.
Afterwards, all adjourned back across the land to the house for afternoon tea.
report by Anda McMillan
The SOPP gathering we had planned was unable to take place due to unforeseen circumstances. Instead, I held a private ceremony in Loch, a tiny town in South Gippsland. After watching the replay of the SOPP from Fuji Sanctuary, a short ceremony followed. Flags of each nation of the world were displayed on an altar, which provided the focus for the ceremony. I started with seven Divine Spark INs, followed by prayers for peace for each continent and for particular areas around the world that could benefit from an infusion of light. The ceremony concluded with a spontaneous heartfelt prayer for peace and well being for all people and places experiencing turmoil, repression or inequality.
Melbourne, Australia (Eltham)
report by Gloria Grace Wallace and Geoff Nelson
This year’s Symphony of Peace Prayers ceremony 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 eight years at various locations in Melbourne, and its mission includes promoting personal and planetary peace. We gathered on Saturday, May 18th, from 2-5 pm. It was an intimate circle of people who attended the event, and multiple faiths and traditions were represented by prayers, as well as participants offering personal prayers for peace in the form of poems, passages, instrumental music, and the Dances of Universal Peace.
Everyone was blessed by a 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 he played the didgeridoo right into our heart centers, we were bathed in the beauty and healing of the Dreamtime. This was Richard’s fifth SOPP ceremony, and his presence is always special.
Each year, Rev. Gloria Grace provides a brief background of the world peace prayer movement and Byakko Shinko Kai, and also reads aloud the message from Mrs. Masami Saionji to all SOPP participants. We also pray together a world peace prayer for all the regions of the world and a prayer for harmony between humanity and nature.
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:
May the blessings of God rest upon you.
May God’s peace abide with you.
May God’s presence illuminate your heart,
Now and forever more.
After expressions of gratitude from Rev Gloria Grace and Geoff, delicious offerings of the food brought by participants were enjoyed by everyone.
report by Robyn Fields
I held private prayers for peace at my home in Milingimbi, Northern Territories.
report by Trish Delaney
A group that gathers regularly in Narooma connected with SOPP events around the world, offering prayers for peace throughout humanity.