The Interfaith Peace Project’s Celebration of the International Day of Peace included four venues this year. Fr. Tom was graciously invited by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Benicia to preach and hold a Peace Forum. The three Abrahamic faiths held a prayer service at the Morgan Hill United Methodist Church led by Rev. Patrick Davis, Pastor and member of the Interfaith Peace Project Board of Directors. Susie Kohl and the Interfaith Council of Rossmoor chose Fr. Tom to be their keynote speaker at their International Peace Day Celebration. And finally, Sunday night, The Interfaith Peace Project was one of the sponsors for “Open Our Eyes: Our Prayer for Peace – A concert for the International Day of Peace” held at the Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Benicia:
The Jain and the Christian Traditions Dance Together on This Day!
The following is an excerpt from Fr. Tom’s talk at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Benicia, California.
Today is the International Day of Peace. All over the world, millions of people are coming together in prayer, song, dance, seminars, reflections, and workshops to celebrate and ponder the reality of peace. As we look out into our world today, it is quite obvious that now, more than ever, peace is our heart’s desire. But today, is not a day simply for programming. It is a day to discover the peace that is within us. Today is predicated on the assumption, that if we can practice peace in everything we say, think, and do for twenty-four hours in the ordinary affairs of life, then one day at a time we can bring peace to the world. We can at least bring peace to the people we associate with, to the people we love, even to the people we might fear.
As we look at our human history and traditions, we might very well discover insights from other peoples that can teach us something about what it is to be a humane human being of peace. These traditions belong to the human race and they point to something deep within the human race. I encourage you to discover the other traditions so you can find what is already in your heart.
Peacemakers are those who have discovered what it is to be a human being. You and I come from a culture that sings, prays, chants and meditates and reflects and studies: The greatest among you is the one who serves the least – not the one who liquidates the least! It is critically important in peace-making to discover the peace-makers that have been part of our history, not only as a nation but as a world. There are religious traditions that teach magnificent things about what it is to be a human being; what it is to be socially responsible. One of the traditions, Jainism, is over 2500 years old. One of the great founders of the Jain movement is Mahavira (540 BCE–468 BCE).
In Milpitas, California, there is a beautiful Jain Temple. When you walk into the Jain Temple, surrounding a large statue of the founder, you will find over 100 images of Mahavira, the founder, all slightly different one to another. Since there are many different types of Jains (just like there are many types of Christians), in each Temple they honor all of their other brother and sister Jains by including an image from each of the various Jain traditions. (What would happen if Christians honored all of their brother and sister Christians in their houses of worship?)
One of the primary symbol of Jainism is a hand lifted with palm facing another person as if saying to someone “Stop”. It means stop before you say anything, before you think anything, before you do anything that might be harmful.
Jain teaches us three things that we could think of in terms of our own personal tradition: nonviolence, non-attachment and non-absolutism.
Nonviolence: Not harming any form of life by deeds, words, actions or thoughts. Become deeply reflective people. Will what I am about to say affect someone? Is what I am about to do hurtful? Is what I am about to think going to harm me or another? Am I putting myself down? What am I doing? What is the turning point in this moment? Nonviolence is not simply an action, it must be in your heart. Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That statement is predicated on self-love and self-respect. I need to claim my dignity. Who am I as a person? I am God’s gift to the universe. What gift is God giving when God gives me? We are God’s gift in this moment. No one has the right to the gift, but everyone has the privilege of being blessed by the gift. We have the obligation to open up and be the gift.
Non attachment: Balancing our needs with desires while staying detached from any possession. The “This is mine” mentality leads to the very deep question, who exactly am I? Is this a thing I possess or the thing that possesses me? Is this a thing to use or the thing that uses me? When it comes to money, power and status, do I know who I am because of what I have, because of my power, my wealth, my authority? All of this can blind you to the gift of you. I possess and hang on to hostility toward others. Can I imagine me without the hostility? The greatest gift you will ever give is not out of your pocket, not out of your brain, but out of your heart….you!
Nonabsolutism: respect for the views of others. You can only know the absolute truth by understanding different points of views, so we need to be open to discussion and dialogues to know more about the truth. There are no absolutes, Do not let your belief interfere with your experience. The God we claim we believe in is greater than what we believe. Faith might mean God’s belief in you.
I wish we could write a creed that gave us peace. I wish we could draw boundaries that gave us peace. I wish we could teach a class that gave us peace. But Peace is like the Kingdom of God. It comes from within.
Morgan Hill United Methodist Church:
Abrahamic Interfaith Worship Experience
The Three Abrahamic Faiths of Judaism, Islam and Christianity gathered at the Morgan Hill United Methodist Church in observance of the United Nations International Day of Peace for a prayer service Sunday, September 21st. The joint worship service was lead by Rev. Patrick Davis, Pastor of the Morgan Hill United Methodist Church, Rabbi Debbie Israel of Congregation Emeth in Morgan Hill, and Sohail Akhter representing the South Valley Islamic Community of south Santa Clara County. The service was held in solidarity with the Interfaith Peace Project of Antioch, California. The service began by greeting and welcoming each other in peace in all three traditions: Jewish, Muslim and Christian. A candlelight ceremony was included as worshippers came forward to light candles surrounding a Peace Pole in remembrance of the children, women and men who have died in wars and violence this year in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Israel and the Ukraine; remembering the 298 killed on board Malaysian Flight #17 over the Ukraine, the continuing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Michael Brown, remembering James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines. The service concluded with a Jewish, Muslim and Christian blessing.
A follow up interfaith service of prayer and peace will be held at Congregation Emeth at 3:30 pm on Yom Kippur,Saturday, October 4th, located at 17835 Monterey Road in Morgan Hill, California.
Interfaith Council of Rossmoor:
Adhaan – Call to Prayer in the Muslim Tradition
God is Great
Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah
I bear witness that ther is no god except the One God
Hasten to the prayer
Hasten to success
Hayya ‘ala Khair ul Amal
Hasten to the best of actions
God is Great
La ilaha illa Allah
There is no god except the One God
Gathering Litany – Prayer of Awareness adapted by John Philip Newell
It is because we long for peace
That we gather.
It is because we hope for wholeness
That we hunger.
It is because we need forgiveness
That we seek new beginnings.
So we come
Entering the depths of our soul
To plead for peace
To summon wholeness
To ask forgiveness
Of ourselves and one another
As we gather
Let us be still and aware.
Keynote Speaker: Thomas P. Bonacci
The following is an excerpt from Fr. Tom’s Keynote Address to the Interfaith Council of Rossmoor.
Look how easy it is for some of the world to say, “We should go over there and bomb those people off of the face of the earth”; whoever those people happen to be. When the essential question might be, “What motivates another person to do what they do?”
Someone walked up to the Buddha one day and slapped him in the face. Tradition has it that the Buddha turned around and said, “You must be in terrible pain to act like this.” Although, the pain does not justify the actions. the Buddha’s insight, “You must be in terrible pain to act like that” invites the questions, what is the cause of the pain that breaks someone’s heart, and what is the cause of the pain that makes one’s life so difficult and so meaningless? Think of how many times someone just assumed that people had no pain, no suffering and no insight. That all they were was a political point of view, an ideological point of view, and not a real person.
Today is The International Day of Peace and we are all tempted to say, “Where is the guru, where is the master, where is the politician, where is the person from on high who is going to come in to our lives and give us peace. If you want peace, peace is in your heart. You have to claim your dignity, you have to claim your self-respect. You have to realize that your life is so worth living that when you live it deeply and reflectively and not reactively, you bless everyone you meet.
Talk to great people in the military. They are the last people on earth that want to go to war. It is quite clear in any military that is not based on ideology, but based on true allegiance to a nation, that the only way the military works is not when soldiers are murderers, but when soldiers stand up for what is right with their lives. In almost every modern war we have had generals and military people have cautioned to be careful of what you break, be careful of who you hurt, because if you break it, if you hurt it, you have a responsibility. Only fools immediately go to violence because they have been hurt.
So those of you who find yourselves in difficult conversations with other people and sometimes you walk away hurt and insulted, it is not because you are a fool, it’s because you are a peacemaker and you have communicated the passion of yourself to another.
Trayvon Martin’s mother wrote a letter to the Michael Brown family, Florida meets Ferguson. Here is what she said in the last sentence of her letter: “I would hate to think that our lawmakers and leaders would need to lose a child before protecting the rest of them in making the necessary changes now.” When you can lose a child to violence and then say I hope that the political leadership, the governmental leadership, will never have to go through what I went through to do what is right. That is amazing; that is transformative. That reveals something about the potential and reality of every human person. We do not have to be defined by the violence around us. We do not have to be defined by the rejection of other people, we do not have to be defined by the way it is, we can redefine everything by the way we are. We can access the peace that is in our heart and stand up for what is right, what is true and what is beautiful. “I would hate to think that they would have to suffer what I have suffered to see the light”. That’s amazing, that’s a break through…God Bless You.
Now let me take you to the Mission District in San Francisco. I was coming up out of BART at 16th Street. There is a man on the ground, so drunk you can smell the alcohol a half of a block away. He is passed out on the pavement. I heard one person say, “When are they going to clean this garbage out.” And then a bent over man comes walking up to the man. He is an elderly man, therefore, he must be seasoned with life experience. And he bends over the man on the pavement. A policeman comes over and says, ‘What are you doing? Are you trying to steal from him?” And bent over man says, “That was me, that was me. I know what that is like.” And the police officer saw that the man had two dollars in his hand and he was trying to put it into the pocket of the man on the ground. That is me! I know what that is like! You want to stand up and cheer for the human race at that moment. That is when God appears on 16th street in the Mission. That is when the Divine outpours divinity on us all.
Don’t let your history, no matter how bitter and hurtful it might be, be an obstacle to the wonderful person that you are. Don’t let the world depress you. Let it call you forth. And even if you don’t have the answer to every problem, in the midst of the problems, no matter how significant and overwhelming they may be, be so dedicated to the dream, that the dream is born in your own life.
Here is what one prayer prays: “In the midst of conflict and division, we know it is you, oh God, who turn our minds to thoughts of peace. Your spirit changes our hearts and enemies begin to speak one to another. Those who are estranged join hands in friendship and nations seek the way to peace together. Your spirit is at work when understanding puts an end to strife, when hatred is quenched by mercy and vengeance gives way to forgiveness. For this we should never cease to thank and praise you.”
And so, oh God, in this moment, in this interfaith community, in this day of peace, we join together in the prayer of our heart and thank you for the gift of one another. Help us to rise to the occasion. Help us to be the people we truly are. Let that light that is within us be your light shining in our world.
Rossmoor, we love you!
Prayer for the Equinox, September 21, 2014
by Rev. Dr. Carrie Knowles
The sky looks its deepest summer blue
The sun so bright the air shimmers
trembling at its force.
Yet, the trees knew before I knew
how the season’s dwindling to its end.
See, the a top most branches where dry leaves
already braid in their dying colors.
The transit of these very hours as we meet
marks the precarious balance,
where night’s begun to overtake the day.
Oh, Lord of all, Lord of the dance,
Guard us in this time of change
and fill the growing dark
Bound by the sun’s power This earth, my home,
I thought the still center of the world beneath my feet
Hurdles through space on its tilted axis,
Flinging itself forward now bathed in light now cast in shadow.
And I, less than a grain of sand
In a universe of unknown margins
Raise my arms in prayer that I may walk upright
For this instant to hold the balance between love and death.
Oh, Lord of all, Lord of the dance
May my axis still tilt awhile towards morning
Though I must bear with grace the coming dark
Guard me and all that lives with peace.
Sung Blessing in the Jewish Tradition
“Open Our Eyes: Our Prayer for Peace”
A Concert for the International Day of Peace
Sponsored by The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, The Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, The Interfaith Center at the Presidio of San Francisco and The Interfaith Peace Project.
Prayer for Peace
Dr. Amer Araim, Walnut Creek Islamic Center
O’ Allah, Go, Thou art the Source of Peace.
Peace emanates from Thee.
Blessed Your Name; Full of Majesty, Bounty and Honor
Greet us, greet this gathering with peace.
Guide us to celebrate this year, the one of World peace;
Let peace and justice prevail over Earth;
Let us enter Paradise with peace;
Let us always remember Your Name;
The Source of Peace. Amen
Open Up Our Eyes
Open up our eyes
Teach us how to live
Fill our hearts with joy
And all the love you have to give.
Gathered now in peace
We will follow Truth’s bright flame
And we will know that all are One,
We will know that all are One.
Thank you to the following participants:
White Horse Chorale and the Chorus of Sufism Reoriented, Walnut Creek
Rev. Leslie Takahashi, and Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church
Our Lord of Pardon Family Prayer Group Choir, Christ the King Church, Pleasant Hill
Peter Brooks, Sufism Reoriented, Walnut Creek
Fred Fielding, Executive Director Interfaith Center of the Presidio, San Francisco
Ginger Megley, Liturgical Dancer
Ensemble from Christ the King Church, Pleasant Hill
Rev. SierraLynn White and Bill Wentz and friends
Rev. Will McGarvey, East County Shared Ministry
Margli Auclair, Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center, Walnut Creek
Sheikess Tabia Shekineh Bey, The Moorish Science Temple of America
Members of the Mt. Diablo Universalist Church Choir and Diablo Choral Artists
Fr. Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P., Interfaith Peace Project
Special Thanks to:
Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church
Reverends Leslie Takahashi and David Morris, Co-Ministers
Loel Bartlett Miller, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
James Botts, Sound
Mark Tuning, Music Director, Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church
Program and Concert Logistics
Scott Schrader, Concert Logistics
Peter Brooks, Sufism Reoriented
Rev. Will McGarvey, Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
Marge Auclair, Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center
Program and Reception Sponsorship