From September 5 to 7, representatives of Tenrikyo participated in a major interreligious gathering, held in Milan, Italy. The 18th meeting, organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, had the theme “Religions and Cultures: The Courage to Forge a New Spiritual Humanism” and was attended by about 500 people from 50 nations and regions representing the Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Russian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox churches as well as Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Jainism, Sikh, Buddhism, and other religious groups.
The opening ceremony of the meeting was held at the Teatro delgi Arcimboldi in Milan. In response to the school seizure in North Ossetia, a Russian Orthodox bishop gave a special speech to open the meeting. After strongly denouncing terrorism, he asked all the other participants to join him in observing a moment of silence in honor of the victims.
On the afternoon of the following day, Rev. Yoshiaki Mihama, head of the Overseas Department, gave a speech representing Tenrikyo in a forum called “Japanese Religious Humanism.” Rev. Mihama spoke under the title “The Universe Is the Body of God.”
“According to the Tenrikyo teachings,” he said, “God is the Creator and all human beings are brothers and sisters who equally share the same Parent, God. This is why we call God ‘God the Parent.’ God’s revelation in the Ofudesaki says: ‘To God, who began this world, all of you in the world are equally My beloved children (IV: 62). All of you throughout the world are brothers and sisters. There should be no one called an outsider (XIII: 43).’
“All human beings are brothers and sisters who are capable of leading a joyous life, equally receiving God’s blessings and providence. Disputes arising from differences in ideologies and philosophies as well as fights over political and/or economic advantages among people, organizations, and nations are just foolish. There is nothing but people’s insatiable greed in such disputes. It would be tragic for religions to contend against one another when they are supposed to be guiding people toward happiness and bringing peace to the world.
“We should take the differences in ideologies, philosophies, and religions not as reasons for conflicts but as essential factors for building a peaceful society with rich diversity. We should engage in dialogue so that we can take advantage of the differences in a positive way. When we pick a variety of colors to draw a picture, we often spend some time wondering how we should arrange them so as to make them harmonious. A picture can be lovely because a wide variety of colors–not just one color–are employed. The same can be said regarding the society in which we human beings live.
“This event, sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, has provided an opportunity for religions from all over the world to meet and discuss and, rising above religious differences, to seek a better path for humankind to follow, and I would like to express my gratitude for having been given the opportunity to take part in this tremendously important event.”
In the question and answer session that followed, participants asked about the preciousness of life and issues surrounding the education of the young. Rev. Mihama responded by sharing Tenrikyo’s teachings of “universal brotherhood” and “the truth of a thing lent, a thing borrowed.”
In the late afternoon of the last day, there was a time for “Prayer for Peace.” In one of the Catholic facilities in Milan, the Tenrikyo delegation performed the seated service as well as the Eight Verses of the Yorozuyo and Songs One through Six. Dai-Roma Mission Station Head Hideo Yamaguchi briefly explained Tenrikyo’s teachings and activities to those in attendance.
During the Peace Procession following the prayer, delegates from religious organizations marched to Piazza del Duomo, the square in front of Milan’s cathedral. The Final Ceremony was held in the cathedral, where the proclamation, signing, and delivery of the Peace Appeal 2004 was conducted, followed by the lighting of candles for peace.