Middle East Peace Programs

Ceremonies for Reconciliation

Ceremonies for reconciliation often occur during UPF's interreligious and intercultural peacebuilding initiatives. These include crossing a bridge of peace, mixing waters of peace, and breaking arrows of war.

Crossing a Bridge of Peace

People of different cultures, religions, and nationalities are building new bonds of sisterhood and brotherhood by crossing a "Bridge of Peace" together.

Lined up on opposite sides of a raised, decorated platform, participants walk forward toward their partner, bow, exchange a flower, and embrace. Women are partnered with women, men with men, couples with couples. New partners have an opportunity to converse, learn to know each other, and exchange addresses in order to keep in touch. Music often accompanies the ceremony, with participants sometimes joining hands in line dances afterwards.

New partners may recite to each other a pledge to

  • face and control their historic hatreds and resentments towards the race, religion or culture of their “Partner of Peace”
  • respect the rights of others; mutually repent and seek forgiveness from each other for wrongdoings against the race, nation or culture of their partner
  • commit to bonding with their partner for the years to come

The power to bring world peace rests in each person's heart. Bridge of Peace ceremonies have brought about "miracles of heart and soul" in thousands of paired participants from former enemy people such as Koreans and Japanese, Westerners and Orientals, and native and immigrant people. The ceremony was initiated by the Women’s Federation for World Peace, but it is also meaningful for men, couples, and youth. It also offers a way of creating personal bonds among people of different religions, cultures, and backgrounds.

Participants in a Bridge of Peace ceremony are encouraged to reflect on the following points:

  • Responsibility: We break the chains of our resentments and anger by realizing these emotions poison and debilitate us. Our attitudes, thoughts and mindset are more essential than our external circumstances. As we take responsibility for our mindset and determine to begin anew, we can be liberated from the effects of past or present hurt even if our basic circumstance is unchanged.
  • Respect: By recognizing the rights of the other, no matter who they are, we are able to open our minds to the possibility of a solution. Without respect, the only answer is death of one kind or another and the perpetuation of the cycle of conflict.
  • Repentance, a Personal Cease-fire: As we take responsibility, we have the strength to see our own shortcomings and our capacity to disregard the needs and situations of others. To end conflict in our own lives, we need to hold a personal "cease-fire" precipitated by self-awareness, honest assessment of our own actions and a willingness to see from the viewpoint of the other.
  • Commitment: As we embrace our partner of peace, whether new sister, spouse, friend or family member, we seal our personal commitment to one another and the tasks of self-development and peace building ahead.

Read reports of ceremonies in Birmingham, UK; Vancouver, Canada; Hiroshima, Japan

Mixing Waters of Peace

Representatives of different religions, cultures, and races each bring a symbolic container with water. One by one, they pour the water into a common vessel symbolizing the truth of all faiths adding to our understanding of the Divine. The large container symbolizes the harmony of religions and cultures, recognizing each other not for their uniqueness but for their common destiny. Prayers may be offered expressing the unity of life and the common desire to work together for peace.

Read reports of ceremonies in Washington, DC; Mindanao, Philippines; Tokyo, Japan; New York, USA

Breaking the Arrows of War

The arrow is a symbol of war and bloodshed. In establishing a peace agreement, the parties in conflict destroy their weapons in front of witnesses. In the Breaking the Arrows ceremony, people are invited to the stage and paired with representatives of enemy nationalities, religions, or races. Each pair is handed an arrow and asked to break the arrow signaling the end of hostilities. To the sound of a drum and chanting, each pair breaks their arrows and raises the pieces high above their heads before placing them in an urn at the center of the stage and embracing each other. When all have finished, the master of ceremonies sets fire to the broken arrows.

Read a report of a ceremony in Haifa, Israel.

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