Offering Interfaith Prayers during Interfaith Harmony Week in Japan

Tokyo, Japan - Around the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, the Japanese Archipelago was the setting of prayers for the victims, who number 20,000, including the missing, as well as for reconstruction from the devastation. UPF-Japan organized two such events, on January 24 and February 2.

On March 11, at 2:46 pm, when the jolt had struck the eastern Japan two years ago, pedestrians stood still for a minute of silent prayer across the country, remembering the day of shock and sorrow.

“Too much sadness during the past two years nearly overwhelmed our trust in the Lord’s grace,” said an Anglican pastor during an interfaith prayer event held at a Catholic Church in Kamakura city. Following a requiem by a Catholic choir, Shinto and Buddhist chants and rituals were offered in this church.

“The essence of Shintoism and Japanese culture is prayer,” remarked a former chief priest of the Yasukuni Shrine at another interfaith gathering held by the Council of Ambassadors for Peace and the Religious Journal, both affiliated to the Universal Peace Federation.

Having experienced the largest national calamity including the nuclear incident in the post-war period, many Japanese citizens reportedly re-discovered needs and merits of prayer. Some of them engaged in soul-searching, wondering why it happened after all.

Nonetheless, sharing the pains of a common destiny and aspiring for a vibrant Japan, clergy from various religions offered their traditional prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer of Christianity, in front of the Shinto altar, which was installed inside the Yasukuni Shrine compound.

The shrine memorializes the more than two million souls of patriots who died during various wars in modern Japan.

One of the organizers, Sotoji Maeda, publisher of the Religious Journal and adviser to the Forum for Religious Ambassadors for Peace, has been active in promoting interfaith sessions for study and prayer. His forum has organized over 40 such sessions so far.

At one of the UPF lectures conducted in Tokyo on February 2 promoting UN Interfaith Harmony Week 2013, Mr. Maeda said: “Japanese religious cultures, especially Shintoism, with its spirit conducive to harmonizing people and nature, may serve as a catalyst among different religious beliefs.”

Earlier, as a part of the Interfaith Harmony Week programs, UPF-Japan organized another prayer gathering in Tokyo on January 24 with Ambassadors for Peace from different faith backgrounds, including Shintoism, Buddhism, and Christianity. They offered sincere prayers for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami as well as for world peace.

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