Report on the Ceremony to Pray for World Peace and Reconciliation at the 134th London Eza

Three Wheels annual ceremony to pray for world peace and reconciliation between veterans of the Burma campaign was held on Sunday 3rd September 2017. It was a deeply humbling and inspiring experience be among such a large number of dignitaries, venerable monks, nuns and priests from other Buddhist traditions as well as friends both new and old, who had all gathered for the same purpose of praying for world peace and reconciliation.

Mr Tomohiro Mikanagi, political minister from the Embassy of Japan prefaced the event with an opening address he had generously prepared for the occasion in which he paid tribute to the dedication and selfless effort of Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato and all those connected with the peace and reconciliation movement. Now returning to London as political minister for the Embassy after a long period away, Mr Mikinagi found he had a new appreciation for the work everyone had been so tirelessly doing.
A message graciously written for the meeting by His Excellency U Kyaw Zwar Minn, Ambassador of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar was read out in which Mr Minn said that this Eza, in which peoples of all different religions, cultures and races all come together, symbolises an ideal future where we can overcome hatred and prejudice caused by ignorance of each other.

During the memorial service to the soldiers and civilians from many different nationalities who lost their lives during the Second World War, Michael Moody, nephew of Mr Thomas Bruin one of the veterans of the Burma Campaign Society who died last year, offered incense together with his wife Maureen in gratitude for everything he had done for the peace and reconciliation movement.

Venerable monks, nuns, priests and representatives from other Buddhist traditions came to chant sutras before the Buddha-shrine in a very moving display of harmony within diversity which included members of the Thuwanna Thingi Mogot Vihara (a tradition from Myanmar), Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, Nipponzan Myohoji, Rissho Koseikai and the Shobo-an Zen Centre.

A message was then read out from the Right Reverend Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfied who is a long time supporter and participant in the interfaith activities of Three Wheels. Bishop Michael told us in his message that it was his great joy in January of this year to visit Myanmar with Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato to share in a Buddhist- Christian consultation in which the highlight of those very powerful days together was the opportunity for them to read together from the holy scriptures and to share the meaning of true neighbourliness in our own lives.

Following the traditional shaking of hands together in reconciliation Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato gave a talk of thanks in which he reflected on recent events strongly connected with this peace and reconciliation meeting. Hearing the chanting of sutras by the gathered representatives of other Buddhist traditions, Rev. Sato spoke of how much he felt the presence of those war veterans who are no longer with us. Remembering Mr Thomas Bruin, a war veteran who regularly attended this meeting to pray for continued reconciliation with his former combatants in the Burma Campaign, Rev. Sato expressed his sincerest gratitude to him and to the all the other war veterans, both British and Japanese, for their sincere and deep commitment to the task of helping us awaken to the vital importance of realising world peace and inner peace.

Attending this meeting for the first time was Mrs Keiko Holmes, who alongside of the late Mr Masao Hirakubo founded the movement for reconciliation between Japanese and British war veterans. Mrs Holmes recalled how, since 1988, she had met hundreds of families of prisoners of war and had been learning a lot from this ongoing encounter which she had extended into other countries such as China.

Mrs Phillida Purvis, Chair of Links Japan was next invited to speak. Mrs Purvis gave her sincere thanks to everyone involved in organising today’s event which she felt was even more meaningful in light of the recent sad developments in the world such as the ever worsening situation in North Asia with North Korea. There is now even more refugees in the world than there were even in the height of the Second World War.

Mrs Akiko MacDonald, Chair of the Burma Campaign Society highlighted how the effects of war can be felt by people in affected areas for many years into the future, a fact she had witnessed for herself in recent tours of Burma and India to visit past battlefields where the natives inhabitants were still suffering the effects of war.

Dr Desmond Biddulph, President of the Buddhist Society, pay tribute to his long friendship with Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato who he had first met whilst Rev. Sato was lecturing at SOAS well over twenty years ago. Reflecting of the meaning of “reconciliation” Dr Biddulph recalled the words of the Buddha who taught that we must always start with the “problem at home” which are our deep-seated blind passions. Unless we can come to terms with the seeds of violence in our own hearts world peace can never be achieved.

Mr Richard Pe Win, a trustee of the Myanmar Buddhist Association attended the meeting with several other members of this longstanding organisation. Although peace can on the surface sound like such a simple concept, Mr Win told us, underneath it is many years of deep striving and the remembrance of what has happened in the past. From this point we can build together a peace future.

The last speaker was Rev. Kenshin Ishii who, looking towards the future, expressed his happiness in receiving some important teachings during recent spiritual activities at Shogyoji and Three Wheels. If I become aware, Rev. Ishii emphasised, that I am always supported, always loved by someone, my mind becomes full of gratitude and even for just a moment free of the attachments that lead to conflict with others.

Although I cannot fully appreciate the depth of what has been done for us by the war veterans and all their supporters who have been tirelessly working towards the goal of world peace, even to the end of their lives, I am very grateful to Three Wheels for giving to us a place where we can encounter their great love and compassion.
Andrew Webb