Manila: report by Mario Fungo

The Symphony of Peace Prayers was once again celebrated in Manila, Philippines, on May 20 at 3 pm at the Samba-Likhaan Open Grounds of the Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music (AILM) in Quezon City. As in past years, the event was organized by the Mandala Peace Arts Initiative and The Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation, Inc., with support from Byakko Shinko Kai, and in cooperation with some new partners, AILM and the Coalition of Services of the Elderly. More than 80 people from different faith communities, grassroots youth groups, peace organizations, and individuals gathered together for the occasion.

The program this year was simple yet very refreshing, because it was held outdoors for the first time, in an ideal venue called Samba-Likhaan (which roughly means ‘worship-creation’). The Samba-Likhaan Open Grounds is an open-terraced performance circle surrounded by typical Filipino country cottages and other tropical trees. It is a cool and verdant atmosphere, and a place where art and spirituality have always been celebrated.

Upon arriving, each participant was handed a flag card of a particular country, and was requested to write a small mandala for peace with the words: Everything is sure to get better. Everything is absolutely getting better.

Prayers were led by representatives from various faiths: the indigenous tradition (Ms. Genie Kupang), Hinduism (Dr. Shakuntala Vaswani), Ananda Marga (Didi Ananda Kala), Brahma Kumaris (Bro. John Dowling), Tibetan Buddhism (Mr. Reimon Cosare), and Islam (Engr. Faisal Sharief). The Christian representative, Dr. Mina Ramirez of the Asian Social Institute, also offered special prayers for peace and harmony between the Philippines and China (and all other countries under territorial disputes), in line with current issues between the two nations. A prayer for a world free from conflict and a prayer for harmony between humanity and nature were read by Mandala Peace Arts members Marlon Nacianceno and Jake Batoon.

The president of AILM, Dr. Francisco Feliciano, a musician himself, conveyed his enthusiasm in hosting the SOPP, saying that he never hesitated about it because of the words ‘symphony’ and ‘prayers,’ which are almost synonymous with ‘music’ and ‘liturgy,’ for which the school was established.

Dance performances were presented by children and youth from two grassroots interfaith communities, the Muslim-Christian Youth for Peace and Unity from Quezon City, and the Muslim-Christian Youth for Peace and Development from Caloocan City.

The highlight of the event was the prayer ceremony for peace in each country, which was led by Mario Fungo. Each of the participants placed their written mandala and flag card at the center around the peace pole when the name of their assigned country was called. The participative ceremony engaged everyone in the co-creation of a mandala of world flags and written prayers. Everyone then joined hands in a circle of sacred silence. Some participants said that they felt the energy of the collective intentions of the group rising up to heaven, joining the prayers of others around the world, and blessing the Earth all together with peace and healing.

As if assisted by the heavens, the activity flowed smoothly, as the heat of the summer sun was covered by the clouds to provide shade for all, while the looming rain did not pour down until after the event was finished. The occasion was capped off with joyful, spontaneous community dancing, friendly conversation, and vegetarian snacks lovingly prepared by the Ananda Marga Yoga Society.

Infinite gratitude to all participating groups and individuals, and also to members of the Manila Muslim Christian Community Peacemakers, Inc. of Quiapo; Muslim & Christian Unity for Peace & Progress of Taguig City; SangHabi; Integral Art Metta, Inc.; and Shumei-Philippines.

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