Yesterday Hereford Cathedral hosted its first Peace Day Service to observe today’s International Day of Peace. The service was organised by the newly formed Herefordshire Interfaith Group.
The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Peace is celebrated on September 21 each year to recognize the efforts of those who have worked hard to end conflict and promote peace. The International Day of Peace is also a day of ceasefire – personal or political. On this day, also known as Peace Day, people around the world take part in various activities and organize events centered on the theme “peace.” This was Hereford’s offering.
The Canon Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral & Venerable Tenzin Choesang welcomed everyone to the peace day service.
The choir then sang the Kyrie from Karl Jenkins’s ‘The Armed Man’, a mass for peace, before several readings were shared in alternation with choral music, chants and instrumentals. The first reading, from the Bahá’í Faith, was part of an address given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Son of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, on September 10, 1911. For the first time in His life after decades of imprisonment, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá addressed a public audience in the City Temple on the Western edge of the city of London. He spoke such uplifting words even though he was aware that a traumatic war was almost inevitable. His address included the words:
The sea of the unity of mankind is lifting up its waves with joy, for there is real communication between the hearts and minds of men. . . . This is a new cycle of human power. All the horizons of the world are luminous, and the world will become indeed as a garden and a paradise. It is the hour of unity . . . . and of the drawing together of all races and all classes. . . . . The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers.
This was followed by an Indian raga played on the Carnatic violin to the accompaniment of a tabla and tambura.
The Quaker community shared a peace testimony before two members of the local police force gave a moving rendering of ‘Panis Agelicus.’
The First Church of Christ Scientist read from the King James version of the Bible as well as key quotes from Mary Baker Eddy. Her hymn ‘O gentle presence‘ was sung by both choir and congregation. This was followed by a “Qira’at,” which is the melodious recitation of the Qur’an according to the linguistic rules of the Arabic language, a Hebrew song of peace and the Buddhist chant ‘Om Mane Padme Hung.’ The presiding host, the Reverend Chris Pullen, read St Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Chapter 3) including the words:
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
The choir movingly sang ‘Nkosi Sikhele’ before the Peace Council read their dedication and the service closed with ‘Better is Peace,’ once more from ‘The Armed Man.’
All those present I spoke to expressed how much they had been moved and uplifted by the inclusive nature of the whole experience.