Report on Annual Ceremony to pray for World Peace and Reconciliation
Three Wheels was grateful to welcome once again a large number of guests to our annual ceremony to pray for world peace and the reconciliation of surviving Japanese and British veterans of the Burma Campaign from the last world war, held this year at the 128th London Eza. Attending the service was the Envoy Extrodinary of the Japanese Embassy His Excellency Mr Motohiko Kato and His Excellency Mr U Kyaw Zwar Minn, the Ambassador of the Union of Myanmar.
Mr Kato prefaced the ceremony with a special address he had generously prepared. After paying tribute to Rev. Sato and everyone involved in organising the peace and reconciliation movement, Mr Kato expressed his hope that, “This Eza, in which people from different religions, cultures and races talk and shake hands together symbolises an ideal future in which people can overcome hatred and prejudice caused by ignorance of each other. I firmly believe that this gathering will form part of a larger movement toward a more peaceful world.”
The memorial service itself was led before the Buddha-shrine by Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato and Rev. Kenshin Ishii and included venerable monks, nuns and priests from different Buddhist communities in the U.K. including the Burmese monastic Sangha, Nipponzan Myohoji, and the Shobo-an Zen centre. The Bishop of Lichfield, the Very Reverend Michael Ipgrave and Rev. Dr. Thomas Plant of St. Michaels Church, Camden both participated in the service and Eza meeting which greatly expanded the interfaith dimension of the peace and reconciliation ceremony and deepened the dialogue between Three Wheels and the Christian Church. Three Wheels was also honoured to welcome a Shinto priest Rev. Kato and Rev. Hosaya from Rissho Koseikai. The meeting of all these faith representatives with utmost reverence and respect before the Buddha-shrine was a profound expression of Three Wheels founding ethos of ‘Harmony within Diversity’.
Following the chanting of sutras before the Buddha-shrine, Bishop Michael Ipgrave gave a moving speech in which he quoted from reflections given by veterans of the 2nd World War which illustrated how their personal suffering had been transformed into the desire for peace and reconciliation. Referring to the Great Living by Reverend Sato, Bishop Michael also highlighted how in Christianity, as well as in Buddhism, the expression of gratitude is a central part of religious worship.
Following the traditional shaking of hands in reconciliation between all of the participants in the Eza Rev. Sato gave a talk of thanks in which he reflected on his recent journey to Papua New Guinea during which he conducted a series of memorial services to commemorate all those who died there during the fierce fighting in the Second World War. One notable experience which amazed and gratified Rev. Sato was to witness the deep friendship that some war veterans from Japan, who had regularly been returning to Papua New Guinea to collect the bones of their fallen comrades, had establish with the indigenous people of that country. Rev. Sato felt through seeing such reconciliation that his eyes had finally been opened to the extreme importance of reconciliation with the indigenous inhabitants of countries such as Papua New Guinea and Myanmar (formerly Burma) on whom its invading forces had inflicted such damage. After this experience Rev. Sato was both surprised and delighted to receive a favourable response from His Excellency Mr Min, the Ambassador from Myanmar to his invitation to attend this London Eza.
Father Thomas Plant spoke with great passion on the resonances between the Buddhist and Christian faith traditions on the profound human need for reconciliation between self and other with particular reference to the importance given in both traditions to “Other-power”. Mrs Akiko MacDonald, Chair of the Burma Campaign Society gave an update on the recent work of the Society in their ongoing activities and Mr Richard Pe Win, representative of the Myanmarese Buddhist Society who had organised the attendance of the Burmese Monks expressed his hope that their friendship with Three Wheels would grow and develop.