The 21st International Meeting of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio, was held in the southern Italian city of Naples from October 21 to 23. Attending the meeting were representatives of approximately 50 of the world’s major faiths, including those from the Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Russian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox churches as well as from Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, thus making it one of the largest religious summits. Administrative Affairs Department Vice Head Nobuo Nagao, Tenrikyo Europe Centre Head Noriaki Nagao, and Dai-Roma Mission Station Head Hideo Yamaguchi, as well as some Yoboku residing in Europe, represented Tenrikyo at the meeting.
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 in European cities every year. Tenrikyo has sent delegates to the meeting every year since 1986, when seven representatives including Rev. Chikayoshi Kamada, then head of Tenrikyo Mission Center in Paris, were invited.
The theme for this year’s meeting was “A World without Violence: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue.” Using a famous opera house, a congress center, churches and other facilities within the city as its venues, the meeting drew a total of 300,000 participants including many from the general public during the three days.
Prior to the opening of the interreligious meeting, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a mass in the Plebiscito Square. The opening ceremony, held at the San Carlo Opera House, was attended by the Archbishop of Naples as well as numerous state dignitaries such as the prime minister of Italy, the president of Tanzania, and the president of Ecuador.
During the following two days, a total of 32 section meetings were held at various venues including churches and a hotel. Representing Tenrikyo, Rev. Nobuo Nagao served as a panelist for one of the morning sessions on Day Three, “A World without Violence: the Task of Japanese Religions.” The other panelists represented Tendai Buddhism, Rinzai Zen Buddhism, Soto Zen Buddhism, Jinja Honcho, Oomoto, and Rissho Koseikai.
After explaining that God’s purpose in creating humankind was the Joyous Life of all humankind, Rev. Nagao said: “God has allowed us the wonderful free use of the mind in the hope that we humans will work, of our own volition, to build the Joyous Life. . . . The mind, however, can be difficult to handle in some respects. . . . This should be no problem if we awaken to the true meaning of our existence, reflect on our thoughts and actions, and correct what need be corrected. However, if our mistaken thoughts and actions persist and accumulate, our minds will develop negative tendencies and habits. Over the course of our long history, we humans have done wonderful things, but we have also used our minds and conducted our lives in ways that bring little joy to God. What we see happening in the world today can be regarded as reflecting the history of human minds. Moreover, the way we use our minds and the way we act now will shape the future of humankind.”
What must be done, he said, is to “use our freedom of mind to truly understand and internalize the fact that we are all true brothers and sisters. We must take it to heart that all human beings . . . are meant to love one another, help one another, and live in harmony with one another. We can begin this effort in our immediate relationships such as those between husbands and wives and parents and children, . . . but we must tell more and more people loudly that all of us throughout the world should purify and polish our minds so as to live the Joyous Life together. . . . One important thing for us to do is to pray to God, the Parent of all humankind, for a true settling of the world. . . . At the same time, those of us who have become aware of the true meaning and purpose of human existence should watch our states of mind while dealing with whatever is happening in our lives and in the world at large, so that we can let go of our minds’ habits of thought and allow our minds to develop loving-kindness and soft and mature roundness, which God desires of us. We ought to make these efforts in our daily lives.” He concluded by urging all to “work together to make progress in building a peaceful world.”
During a question and answer session, one of the participants asked about Tenrikyo’s relations with other faiths. Rev. Nagao responded by speaking about the Tenrikyo-Christian Dialogue, which has been held twice, and Tenrikyo’s active participation in numerous interreligious meetings.
On the afternoon of October 23, various religious communities were allotted rooms to conduct their individual prayers for peace. The Tenrikyo delegation members, 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. Speaking in Italian, Rev. Hideo Yamaguchi shared the meanings of the service’s hand movements and some of the Tenrikyo teachings with participants who visited the room assigned to Tenrikyo. The room was so full that some had to stand. Two hundred pamphlets in Italian brought in for the meeting were all handed out in a brief time, and many of the participants asked for Tenrikyo books translated into Italian as well as the Italian version of the “Gratitude, Moderation, and Mutual Help” stickers produced by the Europe Centre. That evening, the participants joined the Peace Procession, in which they walked to the Plebiscito Square, the venue for the Final Ceremony. A minute of silence in memory of all victims of war, terrorism, and violence was followed by the proclamation of Peace Appeal 2007 and the lighting of candles for peace by religious leaders.