This year’s International Day of Peace Service on Monday 21 September was unique.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was held online rather than face-to-face.  Eighty-seven people from all over Australia joined via Zoom.  Since it was live streamed on Facebook, many from overseas were also able to view it. 

Thus, for the first time, this year it was truly an “International” Day of Peace.  It was very much appreciated that at this unprecedented and uncertain time, people from such diverse backgrounds were able to gather together for our common quest for peace.

In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution designating 21 September September as the International Day of Peace. At the United Nation’s Building in New York and in different parts of the world, prayers are offered by different religious groups on this day for peace.

For the last seventeen years, Rev Dr Manas Ghosh, minister of the Uniting Church in Sydney, has been organising a multi-faith peace service on this occasion, for ten years in Lindfield and for the last six years in Parramatta.

Rev Dr Manas Ghosh welcomed all the participants and provided the context:

COVID 19 has taken nearly a million lives around the world and many more millions are suffering from it. In this service we remember those who have lost their lives, and those frontline workers and scientist and researchers who are working tirelessly to bring healing and comfort to the sufferers and to find a vaccine.

The service began with the lighting of the Peace Candle by Dr Zeny Edwards and everyone recited the International Payer for Peace:

Lead us from darkness to light, from falsehood to truth;

Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust;

Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace;

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

The words are adapted from the Upanishads and were used by Mother Teresa in 1981, who urged people of all faiths to use the peace prayer daily at noon.

Prayers were offered from 16 different traditions, literally from A to Z, from Aboriginal to Zoroastrian.  Some of the prayers were in their original languages, but English translations were provided in the order of service which had been circulated in advance and also on the screen.

  • Prayer from the First Peoples of Australia: Ms Pearl Wymara
  • Armenian Apostolic Church Prayer: Deacon Nishan Basmajian
  • Baha’i Prayer: Mrs Niloufar Khalajabadi
  • Brahmakumari Peace Reflection: Ms Margaret Parker
  • Buddhist Prayer: Venerable Sr Thubten Rabdrol
  • Catholic Church Prayer: Rev Dr Patrick McInerney
  • Coptic Orthodox Church Prayer: Rev Dr Shenouda Mansour
  • Hindu Prayer: Pandit Jatin Bhatt
  • Islamic Prayer: Mr Neil Ei-Kadomi
  • Jain Reflection: Ms Priyanka Jain
  • Jewish Prayer: Ms Kati Haworth
  • Mandaean Prayer: Prof. Dr. Brikha Nasoraia
  • Sikh Prayer: Mr Manjinder Singh
  • Sufi Prayer: Dr Fazeela Zolfaghari
  • Uniting Church Prayer: Rev Keith Hamilton
  • Zoroastrian Prayer: Dr Pheroza Daruwalla

After each prayer there was a short pause for silent reflection, then all prayed in unison:

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Dr Sue Wareham OAM gave the Keynote Address: “Peace – The Key Ingredient for Building Our Future”.  She is eminently qualified for the task, being

  • President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia)
  • Member of the Board, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
  • Member of the Board, ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), Australia
  • Secretary, Australians for War Powers Reform

Dr Wareham stressed the need for and importance of peace, especially in our current context when there are many forces that seek to provoke conflict and divide us.

Dr Deidre Palmer, President, Uniting Church in Australia, National Assembly, gave a response, expressing appreciation for the peace message of Dr Sue Wareham.

Ms Shaalane Srambikal then sang the popular peace hymn, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace, based on the Peace Prayer of St Francis.

As is the custom at this service, all the participants then lighted a peace candle.  However, they did so at their computer desks, each in their own home.   May the light of peace dispel the darkness of violence, conflict and war.

Finally, Rev Simon Hansford, Moderator, Uniting Church in Australia NSW & ACT Synod, thanked Rev Ghosh for organising the online event and gave a benediction to conclude the service.

Rev Dr Manas Ghosh extended a vote of thanks, to the participants, to the speakers, to the technicians who made this online service possible, and to all who joined this online multi-faith service of prayers for peace on the 2020 UN International Day of Peace.

The service can be viewed at: https://www.facebook.com/UnitingChurchAu/videos/621482611871120