Tenrikyo Presents Vision of Peace at International Meeting for Peace in Rome

Seven delegates from Tenrikyo attended the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace held in Rome, Italy, from September 29 to October 1. Organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio—a lay Catholic group headquartered in Rome—and the Diocese of Rome, the meeting drew religious leaders and government officials from many parts of the world. The Tenrikyo delegation included Honbu-jun’in Yoshihiko Shirokihara, Europe Centre Head Yoshihisa Hasegawa, and Dai-Roma Mission Station Head Hideo Yamaguchi. Under the theme “Courage to Hope,” the meeting featured a total of 32 panel sessions, one of which was “Hope and Peace, Religions in Japan,” at which Rev. Shirokihara spoke as a panelist, emphasizing the “vision of peace” based on the Tenrikyo teachings. Other panelists included those from Rissho Kosei-kai and the Tendai Sect of Buddhism.

The meeting originally developed from the interreligious gathering convened in 1986 by the late Pope John Paul II, who invited religious leaders from across the world to gather in Assisi, a Catholic holy site in Italy. Each year after that, the Community of Sant’Egidio took the initiative to hold the meeting in a different city in Europe. Tenrikyo has participated in the meeting almost every year. The 2009 meeting in Krakow, Poland, was attended by the Shinbashira and his wife for the first time.

Tenrikyo’s first official interaction with the Vatican took place about 90 years ago when Tenrikyo provided exhibits for the Exhibition of World Religions held in the Vatican in 1924. It was later followed by meetings between successive Shinbashiras and popes, as well as interpersonal and academic exchanges over the years.

Rev. Hideo Yamaguchi, who moved to Italy alone 45 years ago and has continued missionary efforts there, has played a big role in establishing and maintaining connections with the community. Due to mutual trust built by Rev. Yamaguchi and other local followers, Tenrikyo has been asked to offer behind-the-scenes help with the meeting. As in the past few years, a follower living in Italy and two staff members from the Overseas Department were involved in this year’s event as interpreters.

Dialogue under the Theme “Courage to Hope”

The meeting started with the opening assembly at Auditorium Conciliazione on the evening of September 29. A variety of topics were then discussed in the panel sessions held at various venues in the city on day two and the morning of the last day. On the afternoon of day two, participating religious leaders including Rev. Shirokihara and four other Tenrikyo representatives had an audience with Pope Francis.

On the evening of the last day, participating religious groups were allocated separate venues to conduct their respective prayers for peace. The Tenrikyo delegation performed the seated service and the first half of the Dance with Hand Movements to the accompaniment of the wooden clappers, cymbals, and flute. In addition, Tenrikyo pamphlets were distributed to those who gathered.

After the prayer, religious representatives marched in procession from their prayer locations to Piazza del Campidoglio for the final ceremony. At the ceremony, leaders from all participating religions were on the stage to light “candles for peace” while offering a collective prayer for world peace.

Rev. Shirokihara said: “Since the meeting was taking place when Tenrikyo Nioigake Day was observed, I presented the Tenrikyo-based vision of peace while seeing this as an opportunity to sprinkle the fragrance of the teachings. In other panel sessions, I was able to listen to religious leaders who are making sincere efforts to address issues facing various countries and regions. Their passion tells me that they are not just talking the talk, they are walking the walk. I strongly feel that as people who are striving to realize the Joyous Life World, we have to increase our commitment to salvation work as instructed in Instruction Three.”

[Click here for full text of his speech.]

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