Good morning everyone. It’s a bittersweet day today, as the completion of our September monthly service wherein we prayed for goodwill and peace throughout the world, also commemorates the 15th anniversary of the notorious 9/11.
It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since that dreadful day when a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks were carried out, resulting in the deaths of almost 3,000 people and causing injury to 6,000 others.
But beyond the casualties and the $10 billion of dollars in property damage, 9/11 left a permanent scar in the minds and lives of everyone; not only in the U.S. but around the world.
From the inconveniences experienced at the airport TSA, to the real fears of simply traveling abroad, or even attending major sporting events, we are all affected to a certain degree by the thought that something terrible could happen at any time, at any place.
This is what terrorism is all about – not just the taking of innocent lives, but instilling fear in the minds of the survivors and the general public.
In the past few months, you may have read about attacks in France, Thailand, and the Philippines. However, in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, the bombings and other mass killings are going on daily.
How can people live in peace, let alone in joyousness, when daily living is threatened by such risk and danger?
If you look at the doctrines of the major religions of the world, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, they all share a common belief: that this world we live in, and this life that we live are but a temporary stopover on the way to the great afterlife, where the goal of eternity awaits.
Followers are taught that after death, we will be judged, and based on the type of life we lived and perhaps the beliefs we held, we either be granted entry into the gates of paradise forever, or shall suffer permanently in a sea of flames.
Why is this type of belief dangerous? Well, they make people live in fear of some horrible afterworld, and more so because it has the effect of segregating people: the believers and non-believers; the “us” and “them.”
What happens when you teach a child that those who don’t share your religious beliefs are destined to burn for all of time?
In extreme cases they become radicals, believing that non-believers are your enemies, and killing them will not only send them to hell, but also bring you closer to God. No wonder the extremists embrace the thought of suicide bombings and mass shootings.
But how sad and regretful for God the Parent, to witness such violence amongst God’s children.
If only everyone understood that: 1) We are reborn into this world again after passing away, and 2) We are truly brothers and sisters, equally loved by our true Parent, then such acts of terrorism and holy wars in the name of religion would be unimaginable.
And this is why we embrace the teachings of Oyasama, and this is why we want to share this perspective with others, and this is why we pray for the teachings to spread throughout the world.
Today, we are honoring the memories of the predecessors of Taiheiyo Church, who found their faith in God the Parent and devoted their lives to the Path.
In Tenrikyo, “The Path” not only refers to one’s faith by using the metaphor of a road, but it also refers to the way we should conduct ourselves daily – the way we try to live in accordance with the intention of God, this is also the Path.
Let us continue the efforts of those who have gone before us, and accompany our prayers to them today with a personal vow to follow the Divine Model of Oyasama as they did, to the best of our abilities.
Thank you, and we will now begin the Autumn Memorial Service Prayer.