Report on the Annual Ceremony to Pray for World Peace and Reconciliation
146th London Eza, 1st September 2019
This year’s annual Ceremony to Pray for World Peace and Reconciliation was especially poignant since those veterans, both Japanese and British, who first gave birth to the reconciliation movement, have sadly now all passed away. Despite their absence, however, these great figures such as the late Mr Hirakubo and Mr Malins, were recognised in the opening address by Mr Jun Miura, Political Minister of the Embassy of Japan in London. Mr Miura, who has just returned to the United Kingdom twenty five years after his previous appointment here, noted how much progress has been made in the Anglo-Japanese relationship during that time. Japan and the United Kingdom are now, he feels, among the closest friends and international partners. He was delighted to celebrate the conferral of the Order of the Rising Sun (Gold and Silver Rays) on Reverend Kemmyo Taira Sato, by His Majesty Emperor Reiwa, as a representative of the reconciliation movement pioneered by the late Mr Masao Hirakubo and many others over the years. “I hope you will all go forward in your efforts,” Mr Miura said, “continuing to send a message of peace and reconciliation through these regular meetings and activities.”
Following the minister’s speech the main memorial ceremony was held which included the offering of incense by representatives of the governments of Japan and Myanmar, the reading of two traditional poems held very dear by war veterans, the chanting of sutras by various Buddhist sanghas, and shaking hands in reconciliation. A message was also read out from Father Thomas Plant as a representative of the Anglican Christian tradition. Father Plant encouraged everyone to look beyond simplistic oppositions such as ‘East’ and ‘West’ and reminded us that “True friendship has to transcend the easy binary of “same” and “other””. This requires of us “hard, demanding self-examination, repentance and honesty… the crucifixion of mere self, for the discovery of true self in mutual gift to one another.”
After the ceremony Reverend Kemmyo Sato gave a talk of thanks which was full of emotion as he spoke of the “beautiful spiritual encounters and reencounters” he had witnessed between Japanese and British war veterans over the years. He said that, “What is of vital importance is that we of later generations remain mindful of all that those brave veterans have sought to accomplish, at times at considerable risk to themselves, and that we continue to do our utmost to respond to their fervent wish for peace and reconciliation by always trying to return to inner peace.” Rev. Sato also expressed his gratitude to his dear friend Prof. John White for working hard for so many years, even at risk to his health, to improve and develop mutual understanding between Japanese and English people.
To conclude the ceremony those in attendance were invited to share their feelings and reflections. Mr Andrew Webb spoke of how pleased he was to welcome representatives of the people of Myanmar, reflecting our growing recognition of the suffering of the indigenous people who were affected by the great conflict that overtook their country from outside forces. Reverend Kenshin Ishii also spoke briefly and noted the wonderful peaceful atmosphere that was created by the chanting of the various monks, nuns and priests of various traditions. He said that finding a moment of inner peace in the here and now is the essential starting point for overcoming hatred. Reflecting on Rev. Sato’s spiritual encounter with an English man Prof. John White, Rev. Ishii shared his impression that inner peace is given to us through spiritual encounters, individual mutual understandings, which let us become aware of the fact that each of us has already been accepted. To elaborate his feeling and conclude the meeting he shared some advice he once received from an older Shin Buddhist priest:
“We ordinary people are always counting what we don’t possess, but what we can do instead is become aware of what we have already been given. Each moment of awareness of what we have received brings gratitude to our heart. Food, water, air, family, everything is a gift. When we realise this in each moment why should we be angry?”