The Rev. Gibbs said he has long looked forward to taking part in the annual event, held each year in Fujinomiya, Japan by Byakko-Shinko Kai, an organization dedicated to world peace. The founder of Byakko-Shinko Kai, Masahisa Goi, is perhaps best known as the creator of the universal prayer for world peace, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”
“One of the greatest gifts any individual or organization can offer is solidarity,” said the Rev. Gibbs, who departs for Japan May 17. “URI is uniquely positioned to provide solidarity with people all over the world. To me, going to Japan and being a part of this annual Symphony of Peace Prayers – which is at the heart of what Byakko-Shinko Kai is and what it does – helps to deepen our relationship.”
Rev. Gibbs said he was particularly moved to take part in this year’s Symphony of Peace Prayers to honor the work Byakko-Shinko Kai and its sister organizations are undertaking to help the people of Japan recover – physically and spiritually – from the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
“As people dedicated to service, dedicated to bringing as much light as possible (the name ‘Byakko-Shinko Kai’ translates as ‘white light association’), they have asked the community ‘What should our response be?’ ” said Rev. Gibbs, who plans a May 22 visit to the area devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.
“Their spiritual teaching says that each of us is called to do the best that we possibly can, to bring the light that is our true selves into the world,” Rev. Gibbs continued. “Part of that is through praying, and part of it manifests itself through compassionate action.”
The March 11, 2011 event, one of the five most powerful earthquakes in recorded history, left 15,854 dead, 26,992 injured and 3,155 people missing. The earthquake and tsunami also destroyed bridges and roads throughout northeast Japan, collapsing more than 129,225 buildings and causing meltdowns at three nuclear power plants.
The disaster has also exacted a heavy toll on the hearts and minds of those who survived.
“Young people in that area – with whom Yuka Saionji (the organization’s deputy chairperson) is involved – have been really prone to despair because of the enormous devastation,” Rev. Gibbs said. “There’s a despair that comes from living in the midst of so much rubble. Part of the rebuilding effort is imagining into the future, helping people to see something rise out of the ashes of devastation.”
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to participate in the May 20 Symphony of Peace Prayers, both at the Fuji sanctuary in Japan and at one of dozens of Global Peace Prayer and Meditation Day celebrations throughout the world.
The Rev. Gibbs’ presence at the event “is a pure blessing, a great honor and a joy we cherish,” said Nicole B. Cressiot, international coordinator for the World Peace Prayer Society, a sister organization of Byakko-Shinko Kai. “Through his presence and energy, he will help send a ripple to the whole world of the interfaith movement, and to all people of religious traditions who are eagerly seeking harmony and unity in the diversity of faiths.”
Two core events comprise the Symphony of Peace Prayers. In the first, religious and spiritual leaders help to create an atmosphere of unity and peace by joining together in the prayers of many faiths.
“To be able to pray for each other’s prayers is a big step toward furthering, slowly but surely, unity and harmony – and through the experience, an expansion of the heart,” Cressiot said.
In the second, participants take turns displaying the flags of nations or regions on the Fuji sanctuary stage, and asking everyone to pray for peace to prevail in those countries.
The annual Symphony of Peace Prayers has brought together people of many nations and faiths together at the Fuji sanctuary since 2005 and worldwide since 2008. In 2011, ceremonies and prayer gatherings took place in more than 50 countries all over the world.
“We hope that SOPP will be a most unforgettable and heart-opening experience for Rev. Gibbs, and that our friendship with URI will grow and unfold in the months and years to come in the spirit of the prayer. May Peace Prevail On Earth,” said Fumi Johns Stewart, executive director of the World Peace Prayer Society.
In addition to taking part in the ceremony at Mount Fuji, the Rev. Gibbs looks forward to meeting with Byakko-Shinko Kai’s Yuka Saionji and many of the young leaders with whom she has worked.
“To be with them will be a great gift,” the Rev. Gibbs said. “I look forward to seeing what unfolds, what I can learn and what I can share.”