The message from the 300 representatives of the Focolare Movement’s Youth for Unity, was addressed to the Venerable Kojun Handa, 256th High Priest of the Tendai Buddhist denomination. Among other things, it states: “We feel that we can sincerely assure you all of our nearness and friendship as we renew our commitment to the diffusion of a culture of peace.” Their message had been read at the conclusion of the 25th Meeting of Interreligious Prayer for Peace that was held in Kyoto on 3-4 August thanks to the initiatives of the Tendai School, in collaboration with several religious organizations from Japan. The gathering was entitled “Raging Natural Disasters and the Role of Religious Leaders”. It was meant to be a moment to reflect on humankind’s relationship with nature following the earthquake, tsunami and tragic nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2012.
At the opening ceremonies were present more than 1,200 people, including sixteen representatives from outside religions, and also many religious leaders from the Land of the Rising Sun. The introduction to the event, which included images of Fukushima, highlighted the fact that the natural disaster re-awakened in the people of Japan, and in others as well, the values of prayer and relationships among all.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to the Venerable Kojun Handa which was read by Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Among other things, the message states: “The commitment to the cause of peace on the part of religious leaders is of greatest importance (…). I am certain that the work at the Summit and the Symposium that studies the answer of the religious leaders to the natural disasters will bring greater solidarity and mutual collaboration.”
There was also a moment of silent prayer for the victims of war and natural disasters. Very moving was the appeal for help and for prayers from Mar Gregorios Ibrahim, Orthodox Metropolitan, who was able to travel from Syria. This was followed by a series of presentations on how to help the victims of natural disasters and on the positions of the various religions regarding nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The meeting concluded on 4 August at Enryakuji Temple on Mount Hiei, with the ceremony of prayer for peace. Also present at the Meeting were many teenagers and young people from the Tendai. Within this context, Christina Lee who was representing the Focolare Movement, read the message from the 300 teenagers who belong to Youth for Unity. “The theme chosen for this year’s gathering,” the young teenagers write, “is particularly dear to our hearts. In fact, we teenagers are well aware that our future and that of the next generations depend upon the respectful relationship of human beings with the natural environment.” Then recalling the Golden Rule that is present in all the holy books and written in the hearts of all people: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt. 7:12), they concluded: “We promise to begin living it right away and we ask for your support in spreading this appeal from us among many teenagers of all the religions, because we are certain that every tiny step taken toward peace, if united to many others, will move us ever closer to this goal.”