The 22nd International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, was held in the eastern Mediterranean city of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, from November 16 to 18. Attending the meeting were representatives of the world’s major faiths. Representing Tenrikyo, Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi, Tenrikyo Europe Centre Head Noriaki Nagao, Tenrikyo UK Centre Head Takayuki Onoue, Tenrikyo Dai-Roma Mission Station Head Hideo Yamaguchi, and Administrative Affairs Department Staff Member Nozomu Itakura attended the meeting. This year, Mrs. Sayaka Nevi, a Yoboku residing in Italy, made a significant contribution to the meeting by serving as an interpretation and translation staff member.
The meeting was first organized in 1986, when the late Pope John Paul II convoked the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, calling for representatives of the world’s religions to assemble and pray together for world peace. Since then, the meeting has been held every year, and Tenrikyo has been sending delegates ever since the first meeting. The last time Rev. Masahiko Iburi attended the meeting was in 1999, when Tenrikyo representatives were invited to attend the meeting held in Vatican City.
Cyprus is an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In 1974, when a coup d’état was staged, Turkey intervened by sending troops to the island. In 1983, Cyprus was partitioned into the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, although the latter is not an internationally recognized sovereign state. Currently, efforts are being made toward the reunification of the island.
The theme for this year’s meeting was “The Civilization of Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue.” The opening ceremony was held at the sports center of the University of Cyprus. During the following two days, a total of 22 section meetings were held at various venues including churches, university buildings, and a hotel. Representing Tenrikyo, Rev. Masahiko Iburi served as a panelist for one of the morning sessions on Day Three, “Economic Development and the Civilization of Coexistence: The Role of Religions in Asia.” The other panelists represented Jinja Honcho, Soto Buddhism, Oomoto, Rissho Kosei-kai, Tendai Buddhism, and Sant’Egidio.
In his speech, Rev. Iburi said that rapid economic development in Asia has brought information overflow and changes in people’s lives. He urged the audience by saying: “At a time when our societies are undergoing tremendous changes, those who have no dependable guide are finding their values challenged, and interpersonal ties are increasingly lost. Now is the time for all of us from all religious communities to tell more and more people what it means to live as human beings.”
After explaining the teachings of the Joyous Life, the purpose of God the Parent’s creation of human beings, and the reason for our existence, he went on to say: “It is important to make every effort to near the parental love and intention of God. In order to near the parental love of God, we need to open up our minds and work on our spiritual development.” He then added, “In order to reflect thoroughly and critically on our own way of living and being, it is useful to regard whatever is happening–including illnesses and other issues involving ourselves or our family members and even global disasters–as an expression of God’s guidance designed to help us make ever more spiritual growth.”
He then spoke about a variety of environmental issues including global warming. After introducing Tenrikyo’s worldview that the universe is the “body of God,” he said: “Viewed from this perspective, the environment is not something that ‘needs’ to be ‘protected’ or ‘conserved.’ When we clearly see and recognize the environment as part of the ‘body of God,’ we will come to reflect humbly on our daily way of life and have a feeling of awe for the environment and a sense of joy, veneration, and gratitude for God’s gifts, which enable us to be alive. This, in turn, will give rise to a profound way of living that is informed by a sense of ‘moderation.'”
He concluded his speech by saying: “Such efforts may seem small or insignificant but, if we patiently continue these efforts, we can have a positive impact on people in the local communities and beyond and, thereby, contribute to solving the environmental problems. Moreover, such efforts will, I believe, lead to the realization of the Joyous Life World, which is the ultimate goal that we are working toward.”
A question and answer session followed after the presentations by panelists. Participants asked many questions, such as “What is the role of religions in the modern era, which is characterized by materialism?” and “What is involved in religious education for youths?” Basing his response on the teachings, Rev. Masahiko Iburi shared some of Tenrikyo’s unique activities and programs such as Tenrikyo Students Training Course.
On the afternoon of November 18, various religious communities were allotted rooms to conduct their individual prayers for peace. The members of the Tenrikyo delegation, wearing kyofuku robes, performed the seated service, the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo, and the first six songs of the Dance with Hand Movements to the accompaniment of the wooden clappers and cymbals. Speaking in English, Rev. Takayuki Onoue shared the meaning of the service’s hand movements with participants who visited the room assigned to Tenrikyo.
That evening, the participants joined the Peace Procession, in which they walked to the Archbishopric Yard, the venue for the Final Ceremony. Proclamation of Peace Appeal 2008 was followed by a minute of silence in memory of all victims of war, terrorism, and violence. Religious representatives then lit candles, signed the Peace Appeal 2008, and concluded the ceremony with the Embrace of Peace.