I'm cheating a bit and writing my blog before the day is over, but I will be attending a plenary tonight, and I know by the time I get home, I will just want to go right to bed! So, if I have anything to add from the rest of today, I'll share it tomorrow.
So, the morning was poised to start off very well. I got up super early to get my workout in before the Yoruba ebo ritual scheduled at 7:00. I made it to the room just in time, and.....waited. And waited, and waited.....the leaders never showed. [And I wasn't the only one annoyed!] So, what to do. I wandered into a Jain service, but it turned out it was someone describing a video--kind of boring. But then I stumbled onto what was labeled as a "World Peace Prayer and Flag Ceremony." It was absolutely lovely. People formed a circle, and walked around, praying for peace for each country by name, as that country's flag was laid on the ground in the shape of a circle. It was simple, and very powerful--and beautiful in the end, with all the flags. I actually was reminded of an All Saints Service: it's really important to name names in prayer--countries, too, not just people. As we went through the countries, I was reminded both of conflicts and blessings in different places all over the world; and I was convicted by the names of all the countries about which I know so little. I need to be a better world citizen.
After that, I went to a great session, led by ten Bhikshunis--ordained Buddhist nuns. They introduced their particular Buddhist liturgy, and then invited us into a short practice: today it was focused on Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of great compassion. In China [as in Japan], this bodhisattva typically is pictured as female, and she is called Gwan Yin. We sang in English, and the nuns chanted in Chinese.
I continued the Buddhist theme and went off-site to a local Jodo Shinsu Buddhist Temple for a talk and then a worship service. The talk was really interesting--I thought the priest did a great job of introducing Jodo Shinshu to newcomers: that's really hard to do! Then, the service was lovely: it began with classical Japanese flute, and then we chanted together. The priest that introduced the service said they were so pleased to be able to do it, because they had a nice group of priests together [thanks to the Parliament], which makes the chanting particularly strong and lovely. I really enjoyed it--and the chance to practice my almost-non-existent Japanese!
I also went to a presentation on "texts of terror" in the Abrahamic scriptures. It was titled "Kill them (Qur'an), Do not Spare them (Torah), and Cast them into Everlasting Fire (New Testament): Context of Difficult Religious Texts." That was a good panel, and the panelists all emphasized the same things: all scriptural interpretations are contextual, and context is always changing; we need to scrutinize our own texts with the same critical eye we use for others' texts; and as religious communities we have to work to emphasize the core message of peace that stands at heart of all three faiths and not allows extremists to supersede that message. Nothing earth-shaking, but important to remember, especially in light of the current violence in Jerusalem. It was a reminder of how important these kinds of conversations and conferences are, particularly in a world where religions can get scapegoated for national and sectarian violence that religion doesn't under-gird, but, in fact, combats.