The Interreligious Youth Meeting was held in Assisi from November 4 to 8 in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Day of Prayer for Peace. The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue organized the meeting with the aim of passing on the spirit of Assisi to the younger generation under the theme “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” Coming from all parts of the world, nearly 100 youths from the Catholic Church, Protestant churches, and several Christian organizations as well as Baha’i, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism attended the gathering. Tenrikyo sent two delegates: Tenrikyo Seminary Staff Member Shozo Yamazawa and Overseas Department Staff Member Shinichiro Tsuji.
The opening ceremony, which was held at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, began with the lighting of peace lamps. Using a flame that has been burning since the Day of Prayer for Peace in 1986, a youth from each religion was asked to light a candle and offer a short prayer. Representing Tenrikyo, Rev. Yamazawa lit a candle and recited the first verse of the Songs for the Service, asking God the Parent to bless us with universal salvation.
Youths were given opportunities to understand the historical background of interreligious dialogue and Franciscan spirituality through plenary sessions. In the panel discussions, speakers discussed how to sustain and pass on the commitment to world peace through dialogue. Reflecting the diversity of the participants’ backgrounds, programs were conducted in English, Italian, and French, with simultaneous interpretation provided. Whether in group discussions or between sessions, participants eagerly interacted with youths of different religions in order to broaden their awareness of the world’s rich religious traditions and cultural heritages.
One of the highlights was a walking pilgrimage from the Sacro Convento to the Sanctuary of Rivotorto. Participants were able to mingle with other youths as well as Franciscan friars while enjoying scenic views of the ancient spiritual city. During the 4.5-kilometer (2.7-mi.) walk, Rev. Yamazawa was asked to share some of Tenrikyo’s teachings. He responded by sharing the truth of “a thing lent, a thing borrowed” and by explaining that the Joyous Life is the goal of human existence.
On November 8, the participants joined other pilgrims in San Pietro Square for a general audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Six participants representing Baha’i, Judaism, Islam, Tenrikyo, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism at the Interreligious Youth Meeting were granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Tenrikyo’s representative, Rev. Yamazawa, shook hands with Pope Benedict XVI and shared with him the message of the Joyous Life.