Interreligious Prayer for Peace

Interreligious Prayer for Peace

On the evening of Monday the 10th of February, 2003, members of different religions living in Armidale, NSW, and its region, came together for an hour, in the Cathedral of Saints Mary & Joseph, in Armidale, to pray for peace and harmony, and to praise God and/or to commit themselves to goodness.
This was done in the context of growing international and domestic tensions, in a world in disarray and on the verge of war, where religious bigotry and xenophobia were exerting their baneful influences; a world where faith in God is widely dismissed as irrelevant to modern living, where principles are inconsistent and subordinated to pragmatic considerations, where each person regards himself/herself as the de facto arbiter of what is right or wrong, depending on the mood or the perceived need of the moment.
For many of those in the local community who wanted something better than all this, the proposal that people come together in prayer as human beings sharing a single planetary home and as children of God, was welcomed. And the Catholic Church in Armidale, on the tablelands of northern New South Wales, strong in its belief that Christ came not for the few but for all humankind, opened its heart and its doors to people in a time of darkness and spiritual need.
That evening there was to be prayer and readings from various scriptures, without any attempts to extol any particular religion, or offer theological discourses, or to make political speeches; only to pray sincerely, and with sensitivity and respect for one another.
The Master of Ceremonies outlined the programme for the evening and then the parish priest, the Cathedral’s Administrator, welcomed the gathering: ” As Adminstrator of the Cathedral, I would like to welcome you here this evening. All over the world people are raising their voices against the prospect of war. The human race is one family. We are called to live together in peace and harmony with one another. We have come here to express that and to pray for peace…..”
The Coordinator of the evening’s events, then spoke briefly and followed this up with a prayer:
“We welcome you gathered here tonight in the name of our common humanity, in the name of all that is Good, in the name of God. We come together in this House of Prayer and of peace. We bring with us our rich religious and cultural traditions in their diversity. We acknowledge that we share fundamental values and beliefs which are far stronger than the divisive forces around us. We come together in the spirit of solidarity, and in our determination to let nothing come between us.
We stand before God, on behalf of the people of the new millennium, painfully aware that the world we live in is fractured, divided and violent. It is a world where forces exist that would subvert the very things we hold sacred, in order to serve political and selfish interests. Religion itself is often manipulated, and used as a screen behind which to conceal the confusion, the ignorance and the selfishness that lie within human hearts, and which we are so reluctant to deal with. Ours is also a world in which injustice, gross inequity, violence and turning a blind eye to wrongdoing, are all too readily accepted as the price of security and prosperity.
We are here tonight to say “No” to all this, because whatever our religious convictions or philosophical underpinnings may be, we know that within each one of us there is something that calls us to goodness, to Godness.
We are as yet only at the beginning of this new millennium. We would do wisely to regard it as Kairos time, God-given time for decision, and for a new beginning, for ourselves, and for our world; a time for profound conversion at all levels of being. To recognise this and to do something about it, we need the help of God, Who alone is true Light, Who alone can bring good out of evil, because we cannot.
Now is the time to abandon our worship of Mars and Mammon and to set our hearts resolutely on the things of God and on the values of His Kingdom of Love.
Tonight, we shall take a few moments to reflect upon some of the truths and realities that bind us together, and that invite us to rediscover and affirm the common ground that we share. Let those of us who believe in Goodness and in the worth of the human spirit re-commit ourselves to higher values and ideals. Let those of us who believe in God commit ourselves more fully to our Creator and to the human family beloved by God.
Let us now pray in our hearts:
“O God, Most High, Undivided Unity, All-Knowing, and All-Wise, Most Gracious and Most Merciful, we come before you tonight. We acknowledge you as Sovereign Lord, the Uncreated Creator and Sustainer of all, our Lord and our God.
We bow before you, as members of the human family beloved by you. Trusting in your love and mercy, we dare to call you Father, because we are your children.
Help us to remember that we are called by you to live in peace and harmony, and according to the precepts founded in your love for us.
We pray, Lord, for the grace and strength to listen to your voice, to love you more sincerely, to do your will in all things, to turn away from our smallness of heart and our sinfulness, and to accept, respect and love one another. Teach us to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with you, our God. Make us channels of your peace.”
Representatives of different religious traditions then went up in turn to read from their scriptures and to pray in their way, after which there was about a minute’s silence for quiet reflection or prayer.
The various religions, in the order in which they were represented were:
Zoroastrian:

Victory over Wrong

Those whose minds move to uplifting thoughts, and those others whose minds turn to that which is base, their words and deeds will reflect their thoughts: for their choices will follow their sentiments. But in your wisdom, Lord, their ends will be different.
[O God] let not the evil rulers lead us, but good rulers with deeds of wisdom, understanding and serenity. Giving health and happiness in life is the best for a person who works for the living world in order that it may flourish. Indeed the living world is our good dwelling, rather our endurance and strength. The Wise God has increased its prosperity through righteousness, since the beginning of life.
Put down fury, check violence, you who desire to sustain the holy cause, you who would see the spread of Truth. Because a progressive man is associated with this. God, such a one abides with you.
[Spenta Mainyu Gatha (Yasna 48: 4~7)]

Removing Obstructions

According to Thy Faith, O Lord, the choice of righteousness is its own vindication. The choice of evil, its own undoing:
Hence do we seek and strive for the fellowship of Good Thought, and renounce all association with the wrongful.
He who cherishes Thy way with Good Mind is himself a promoter of abundance and prosperity, a follower of the wisdom of Truth, an intimate of piety is he, O Lord! Truthfully, he shall be in Thy Dominion, With all that is there.
[Spenta Mainyu Gatha (Yasna 49: 3, 5) ]

A Prayer for Peace

Decay in morals usually brings dissolution of society, and this has contributed to the downfall of the great empires of the past.
Teach us, Lord, to be wise through the lessons of our history. Help us to learn from the failures of our forefathers. You know well our weaknesses, Lord. Let not our communities be torn by factions and strife. Teach us to live as comrades all, in willing fellowship, and loving fraternity, in brotherly helpfulness and co-operation. Inspire us to live in mutual understanding and trust and peace.
[inspired by a prayer of the late Dastur Dr. M. N. Dhalla]

Hindu:

The Yoga of Action: Greatness of Yajna

Competition, co-operation and self-dedication are three ways in which beings make life a fulfillment.
The lowest order of creation exists by sheer competition. In this stage, the struggle for existence is an endless warfare. The physically strong and the fittest thrive and prosper while the weak and the feeble are either left in the background or exterminated.
In the life at the mental plane, cruel competition gets minimized. Intelligent co-operation gains ground here. Man is a social being though corporate life is not his exclusive prerogative. The civilization of man is mainly based on this gregarious instinct. Collective peace and security are the bases for prosperity and progress in arts and sciences.
Self-dedication is the highest law of life. It prevails at the ethical and spiritual planes. It is given to the enlightened man alone to practice self-dedication. Both the giver and the receiver stand to gain from this sacred act. By sharing one’s knowledge and wisdom with others, one’s fund of knowledge and wisdom increases.
Meritorious act untainted by selfishness, disinterested service, work of any kind performed for general welfare, adoration of the Almighty, ethical and spiritual endeavours – all these salutary activities are contained in Yajna. Dedicating oneself exclusively to spiritual life amounts to the performance of yajna.
He lives in vain who does not utilize the human birth, which is very rare to obtain, for the attainment of Divinity.

Anjaneya Stothram

(Prayer, in Sanskrit, to ward off fear and promote peace)

Jayathvathi Balaramo Lakshmanaschya mahabalah
Raja jayathu Sugreevo Raghuvenabhi palitah
Anjananandanam veeram Janaki sokanasanam
Kapeesa makshahantaram vande lankabhayankaram
Goshpadeekruta varasim masakeekruta rakshasam
Ramayana mahamalaratnam vande nilatmajam
Manojanam marutatulya vegam
Jitendriyam buddhimatam varishtam
Vaatatmajam vaanarayudhamukhyam
Sriramdutam sirasa namami
[Chapter 3: Bhagavad Gita]

Buddhist:
All tremble at violence. All fear death.
Putting oneself in the place of another,
one should not kill, nor cause another to kill.
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
Though one may conquer a thousand times thousand men in battle,yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself.
[The Dhammapada]

(Reflection) – Self conquest is far better than the conquest of others)

Jewish:

Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey, so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God,
to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.
[Deuteronomy Ch.s 6: 3 – 7 ; 10 : 12-19. ]
I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints, but let them not return to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
[Psalm. 85: 8 -13; 86:11-12 ]

Christian (given by a Minister of the Uniting Church of Australia):
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
This I command you, to love one another.
[John Ch.15 : 9 – 17]

Prayer

Let us pray:
Father, you sent your son to our world to show how great your love for us is. Jesus taught us the way to live and to love, and they crucified him for it. Yet he triumphed over death and showed us the way to you.
He showed us that your way is more important than law and theology. He showed us that you are the God of love, and that love is more powerful than presidents and prime ministers, and more lasting than dogmas and creeds.
We live in a world where love seems to have been forgotten.We live in a world where people use religion to hate and destroy. We live in a world where you are worshipped on Sunday and ignored on Monday.
Forgive us Father, for not loving as you loved. Forgive us Lord Jesus, for not following you as you followed your father. Forgive us Holy Spirit, for not listening to you and allowing you to work in our lives.
Reach out your hand to heal our fragmented world. Bring light to a world that is being led into the shadows.
Give us your peace, Lord, that we may be peace-makers and peace-bringers to a world that hovers on the edge of the pit.
You are our Lord. You are our Saviour.You are the God of love. You are the God of life.
Be with us as we strive to be your people. Be with us as we seek to love our neighbour as ourselves. Be with us as we worship you and seek to hear your voice.
We ask this is in the name of Jesus, your son and our redeemer. Amen.

Islamic:

Dua (Prayer)

Alhamdulillah (Praise due to God)

All praise due to God and his messengers.
Oh God, verily you have created us, human beings, from one single man, and then you also create us in different ethnic groups and nations in order for us to know each other, and live in peace and harmony.
But you also created temptation and Satan (devil) to test our faith and conviction.
Some of us, and some of our leaders fail in this test. Consequently, they succumb to evil conductpromoting hatred, suspicion, animosity, and even war, which create suffering and misery on earth.
Today, we are in the brink of war again. So, oh God, we believe, only you are the most capable in conditioning our hearts. Please fill our hearts, and the hearts of our leaders, with love and understanding; strengthen our and their will and conviction to seek peace and harmony, instead of war.
Show them your true path to promote happiness, not sadness and misery; safety, not danger; prosperity, not poverty and sufferings, so that this world will become a safer place to live, for us and for future generations.
Oh God, from all this, it will be to you that all praise will be given, through our efforts to do your will here on earth.
Rabbana atina fiddunya hasanah, wafil akhirati hasanah waqina azabannar (Grant us happiness in this world, and in the after world, and distance us from hell).
Peace be with you all.
Al Q’uran (Dua: Prayer)

Bahai
Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.
[Baha’u’lláh]

Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they all are Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence.
O God! Thou art kind to all, Thou hast provided for all, dost shelter all, conferrest life upon all. Thou hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties, and all are submerged in the Ocean of Thy Mercy.
O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.
O God! Raise aloft the banner of oneness of mankind. O God! Establish the Most Great Peace. Cement Thou, O God, the hearts together.
O Thou kind Father, God! Gladden our hearts through the fragrance of Thy Love. Brighten our eyes through the Light of Thy Guidance. Delight our ears with the melody of Thy Word, and shelter us all in the Stronghold of Thy Providence.
Thou art the Mighty and Powerful, Thou art the Forgiving and Thou art the one Who overlooketh the shortcomings of all mankind.
[Abdu’l-Bahá]

When the prayers were over, a hymn was sung, “Make me a Channel of Your Peace”.
The Cathedral’s Administrator brought the evening to a close:
“Thank you for coming. We may not be able to change the global situation but we can all live peacefully with those around us and that is where starts. I wish you God’s blessing of love and peace.”
The MC also thanked those present, and those who had contributed to what had taken place.
After the gathering in the Cathedral, there was a light supper including a delicious cake with the word Peace on it, kindly made available by ladies of the parish.
The evening was one of great joy, as the many who attended discovered that people from diverse religious backgrounds could meet and pray in an atmosphere of peace, reverence, mutual respect and to accord primacy to the will of God and/or to noble ideals and principles.
The words of the psalm came to mind: “Let the peoples praise you, O Lord! Let all the peoples praise you!”

Goodbye for now. May peace be with you.