Three locations: Geelong, Melbourne, Tasmania
Geelong: report by Jenny Funston
Our SOPP was held at the Senior Citizens Centre in Geelong on a beautiful, sunny autumn day. We ended up with sixty or more people sharing together. Members of the Geelong Interfaith Network and the general community joined in this ceremony with a wish, a vision, and a mission for humanity to live in happiness, peace, health and harmony.
After a brief welcome address, we lit the Peace Flame, which would burn throughout the ceremony to represent the oneness of all people. Then, David Tournier of the local Wathaurong people gave a beautiful, heartfelt ‘Welcome to Country’ address. Next, we shared prayers from different faith traditions. Presenters from the Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian Science, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Sikh, and Brahma Kumaris faiths led participants in prayers, and there was also a prayer for all faiths and spiritual traditions not included in our program. The harmony of voices of various faiths and spiritual traditions resounding in united prayer created a beautiful, gentle, all-encompassing energy.
Children from the Baha’i Children’s Choir sang peace songs, which was followed by a colourful, joy-filled world peace flag ceremony, sending prayers for peace to over 200 countries. Children and adults joined in a parade of flags held aloft, with all participants shouting out May peace be in (name of country) for each individual country.
Next, Silvana Benacchio led participants in singing the word ‘peace’ in all the national languages, followed by a global peace meditation and prayer. We then offered the prayer for harmony between humanity and nature first introduced at Fuji Sanctuary for the 2007 SOPP. Monsignor James Murray shared some words of wisdom on the topic of ‘oneness.’ Finally, we sang the song “May Peace Prevail on Earth” written by Belinda McArdle. It was a joyous event filled with love, serenity and power—an afternoon of rejoicing in sharing, with love and respect, and cherishing the oneness of us all.
Afterwards, I received many wonderful comments from participants. One said it was “a moving and delightful ceremony,” and another remarked that “the program flowed so smoothly and a beautiful energy filled the hall.” The prayer presenters enjoyed the event as well. Phillipa Challis, who led the prayer from Judaism, said, “It was my pleasure to be involved in such a beautifully organised peace symposium. My congratulations to you and the others for the way it was presented and so all-inclusive. I’m sure that…next year the event will be even bigger and spread further.”
Melbourne: report by Gloria Grace Wallace
On May 20, the Unity Church of Melbourne held its own peace prayer gathering. The ceremony was organized by Gloria Grace Wallace, a member of Unity Church who has been involved with Byakko for the past four years and who also organized a prayer gathering at the church last year.
Father Gerard Mulholland from the Janssen Spirituality Centre was the guest speaker, and there were peace prayers from the major faiths of the world read by members of the Unity congregation and special guests. Gloria then led a prayer from Fuji Sanctuary, with support from Sue Kerr and Richard Fletcher, who have both been dedicated participants in previous world peace events. Music was provided by Heart & Soul, as well as a guest composer and musician named Gail Larkins. Mother Earth was remembered and honoured with music and with prayer.
This year, our gathering included a very special addition—the church was gifted its own peace pole, bearing the message May peace prevail on Earth in English, Japanese, Tibetan, and Malay. William Owens, the Unity Board President, accepted the peace pole on behalf of the church and expressed the excitement and gratitude felt by the church for receiving such a gift. Although they had planned to plant the peace pole outdoors, members of the congregation have grown to feel that it belongs inside the church, right at the centre of its beautiful front stained glass window. It has been a wonderful journey shared by all at Unity!
Tasmania: report by Tom Teniswood
Following the successful ceremony held in Hobart last year we had many requests to hold an SOPP ceremony in 2010. In February it became clear that the 2010 ceremony would be at Wind Song, a bed-and-breakfast and retreat centre in Little Swanport. We held our ceremony in the morning, almost concurrently with the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary, commencing at 10:30 am and finishing at about 1:00 pm. This was to allow time for people to share food, to chat and to walk in our labyrinth or visit our sacred area called ‘Paradise.’ The ceremony was held in the garden around the peace pole, which was a gift from a group of Japanese visitors.
We started our ceremony outside the ‘prayer field’ by lighting the World Peace Flame and candles representing the eleven regions of the world. Then, we made our way to the prayer field. As we entered we were ‘smudged’ with the smoke of burning Eucalypt (gum) leaves by our Indigenous friends, Uncle Ronnie and Dyan Summers, to purify us and the surrounding area. Our entry was accompanied by Jane playing “Panis Angelicus,” a beautiful tune by Andrea Bocelli.
The eleven candles were placed around the peace pole and the World Peace Flame sat in a pool of still water. I found this part extremely emotional and very beautiful. We were then ‘Welcomed to Country’ (an Indigenous custom) by traditional owners, with Dyan Summers speaking in her language, followed by Uncle Ronnie singing “I Come from Old Cape Barren” (Cape Barren Island is his birthplace).
I gave a welcoming address and an explanation about Byakko and the SOPP. Ros Gregg, Barb Gardam, Jane and I opened the prayer ceremony with a silent prayer using deep, peaceful breathing, and then we shared in prayers presented by representatives from the Quakers, Holy Tantra Jin-Gang-Dhyana Buddhism, Falun Dafa/Falun Gong, Baha’i and Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga. Prayers were then offered on behalf of Christianity, Shintoism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, led by some of the participants. This was done with no introduction, the silence between the presentations allowing for a total concentration of energy.
At the completion of the prayers, Madeleine and Hannah, accompanied by Jane, sang “One Night I had the Strangest Dream” and Jo Beams sang two songs of peace. Ros Gregg, a Byakko International Lecturer, delivered Masami Saionji’s welcoming address, possibly coinciding with its delivery at Fuji Sanctuary!
As we moved on to the prayer ceremony for peace in each country, everyone was invited to participate. After a hesitant start, the ceremony soon developed its own energy and movement, which was later described as a dance. It was joyous, colourful and creative. At the completion we had a double row of flags surrounding the peace pole area, and the candles of the eleven regions surrounded by smaller candles representing each country. It was a great sight and later that evening several of us sat and watched those flames flickering in the dark.
Alice Hawrylak, Coordinator of the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centre in Hobart led us in a beautiful Global Peace Meditation. I was aware of the powerful and harmonious energy that had been created during the ceremony, the power of prayer in whatever form and the beautiful silence interrupted only by the sounds of the natural world about us. It seemed a shame for this to end!
We shared the prayer for harmony between humanity and nature that was introduced at the 2007 SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary, and concluded the ceremony by saying May peace prevail on Earth three times and Jo Beams leading us all in singing “Peace, Peace, Peace,” a fitting finale.
As people were leaving the prayer field I was talking to my daughter when a puff of wind whipped past us, picked up some papers and took one up into the air where it was tossed around as if in celebration. I am sure the spirit of the land was celebrating the success of the SOPP at Wind Song. Those who were not in a rush to leave shared lunch with us, some walked, some talked and some just basked in the beautiful energy that had been created. Jane and I felt so fortunate to be able to celebrate the SOPP at Wind Song, and we were able to continue the celebration by re-lighting the candles during the following week, particularly at night when they produce such a beautiful light around the peace pole.