Seven events: Chicago, Cooperstown, Cornwall, Croton Falls, Los Angeles, Sandpoint, Seattle
Chicago, Illinois: report by Jennifer Kim
At the Peace School we held a two-hour gathering on Saturday evening, which was Sunday in Japan—the same time as the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary. We did Peace Breathing together (inhale thinking ‘world,’ exhale thinking ‘peace’) and did a Call to Peace for all nations of the world. Our group sat in a circle with a large globe in the center and small flags of the world surrounding the globe. We felt a special connection to world nations this year as the NATO Summit was held in Chicago that same weekend. Leaders of over 60 nations, about 7,000 other international delegates, and over 2,000 foreign and domestic journalists were visiting our city as we held our ceremony for peace. We also felt a strong bond with the many SOPP gatherings taking place at locations around the world.
Cooperstown, NY: report by Chiyomi Prasidthrathsint
Fourteen people gathered here in Cooperstown on May 20, including the reverend of the First Presbyterian Church and members of the church committee. We had a beautiful ceremony in the perfect location, a natural setting on a small hill overlooking the entire town, under deep blue skies. We didn’t have any national flags, so we made 200 paper cranes, writing a prayer for peace in a country and a special peace message on each piece of paper before it was folded into a crane.
We also created a large mandala featuring the earth, a dove, and the words May Peace Prevail on Earth – this was very impressive as well. The owner of a local restaurant asked to display the mandala in the restaurant, so the mandala can continue to fulfill its mission of spreading its peace message.
Cornwall, Connecticut: report by Pamela Beasley
On a beautiful sunny day in Cornwall, we held a prayer gathering on May 20 at 11 am, outdoors in a garden surrounded by nature. Five people including myself attended the gathering.
We prayed for peace in each country and at the same time focused on each country’s flag. Afterwards, we meditated for a few minutes, looking at all the flags surrounding the peace pole, and in so doing we felt so light and exhilarated, believing that our words of prayerful energy were united with those from around the world and connected with all of nature. Everyone commented how incredible it is to join in sync with people around the world who are praying for all humanity, and how amazingly powerful our united words can be!
Croton Falls, NY: report by Deborah Moldow
The interfaith team at the Chapel at Croton Falls hosted a Symphony of Peace Prayers on Sunday, May 20, as a special edition of its regular Interfaith Sundays program. The service began with Native American drumming, then prayers for peace led by representatives of diverse faiths, including Rev. Hans Hallundbaek (Christianity), Rabbi Shoshana Mitrani-Knapp (Judaism), Renuka Kumar (Hinduism), and Sunera Rahman (Islam). By the time Sunera spoke, she was radiant with joy at the shared spirit of all the prayers.
There was also a special prayer presentation by members of Byakko Shinko Kai, which was introduced by Channa Abel. Everyone read together the “Kotodama (Divine Message) of Prayer” that was printed in our program.
Then, everyone took part in a ceremony of prayer for peace in each country, with the flags of all nations. One regular member of the congregation was moved to tears as she led the prayer for her native Vanuatu, raising its flag for the first time since leaving her home country many years ago. All said that they were touched by the profound beauty of the ceremony, which seemed to float on the cloud of a musical kirtan with the words May peace prevail on Earth and music performed by Miriam Zernis of Sita’s Light.
The Peace Pals Art Exhibition was also on display at the chapel, providing endless delight to the participants. Everyone appreciated not only the charming work by so many talented children, but also the wide range of countries and cultures represented.
Los Angeles, Calif.: report by Tatsuo Tim Ide
On May 20, we held a peace prayer ceremony using the flags of the world. Though we would normally hold our ceremony on Saturday evening, in sync with the ceremony at Fuji Sanctuary, we decided to hold it on Sunday in order to have the participation of as many people as possible.
A total of 23 people attended the ceremony, including four children. We gathered at 10 am for a short rehearsal, and then began the ceremony at 11 am. We used a set of large flags, and the children needed a little practice waving them, but soon they were waving the flags quite vigorously. The MC called out the name of each country, after which everyone repeated the country’s name. At the same time, the person carrying the flag of that country walked to the center and waved the flag. As the flag waved, everyone prayed, May peace be in (name of country). May peace prevail on Earth. The ceremony lasted about one hour. At the end, everyone formed a circle and sang songs together.
We have already begun planning for next year’s event, when we hope to invite prayer leaders for a full SOPP ceremony. It is our hope to play an important role in sending out prayers for peace to the world.
Sandpoint, Idaho: report by Mary Lou Warns and Keiko Lewis
Our SOPP celebration this year was at the Aikido of Sandpoint dojo. Eleven enthusiastic people attended our celebration. The dojo was decorated with a map of the world, a gift from a Japanese Byakko member, and also with calligraphy by Masahisa Goi. We started with a wordless prayer. After we completed it everyone wanted to do it again and again, so we did it seven times in all! Every time we did it, our harmony became greater and greater! Then we performed another such prayer, and we did that one over and over as well. Everyone was feeling the energy and intentionally connecting with the celebration at Fuji Sanctuary. We then offered prayers from Tibetan Buddhism, Sikhism, Shintoism, the Mayan traditions, and also the Aramaic version of The Lord’s Prayer. Our flag ceremony was very powerful, too. I felt like the images of the flags seemed to jump out and touch me! There was such cooperation, love and smiles, and lots of good food afterwards! It is such an honor to gather together all over the world and build a new paradigm of peace through all religions and belief systems!
A lovely event was also held at a local preschool, for the third year in a row. Cynthia Mason, who runs the school, educates the students with a wonderful peace program every day, so it is natural for her to celebrate the SOPP at her school. The students are between 3 and 6 years old, but they focused on the peace prayers very well! First, they expressed gratitude to the sun, since it was such a beautiful sunny day. Then they surrounded the peace pole and sang a peace song. A peace pole is planted in the school’s garden, with tulips and stepping stones made by the children. The children then prayed May peace prevail on Earth with their pure hearts. After that, they offered prayers for each country as Cynthia showed them the flags of all the countries. Cynthia asked the children to draw what peace looks like, and all of the children drew pictures that were all about sharing, helping others, loving family, friends and nature. These children know how to make harmony with people and nature. I am sure they will be wonderful leaders and will create a peaceful, harmonious world!
Seattle, Washington: report by Nao Valente
This year, we decided to conduct our ceremony on May 19, to connect with the SOPP ceremony in Japan. We held the gathering at my house, with four Byakko satellite members.
To begin, we performed prayers without words. Then, we had a flag ceremony to pray for peace in each country. Gail White read each country’s name, and we offered a prayer for that country. We also discussed some of the issues and challenges facing some of the countries, so that we could all learn more about them.
After we offered prayers for each country, we went outside to offer prayers for nature and the earth, for providing us with their love and healing.
On the next day, May 20, I felt differently compared to before the SOPP. Recently, I have not been feeling very stable in my life or very confident in myself, but after the ceremony I felt stronger, firmer, and more centered. The other members discussed their similar feelings at our weekly workshop. We were very appreciative of the accomplishments of the SOPP.