On this International Day of Peace, it seems fitting to share one of the ways the Foundation works to create a more peaceful world through interfaith and intercultural dialogue. This past Memorial Day, the Foundation convened a group of guests to experience the Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony, which is based on a traditional Buddhist ceremony held to honor and remember ancestors who have passed away. The Shinnyo-en Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony welcomes all, and attracts a crowd of over 40,000 people who not only write names of the deceased, but prayers and messages of peace or hope on lanterns that are lit at sunset and let go on the shores of Ala Moana Beach.
Our guests included a group of graduate students and faculty from Hartford Seminary and the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry. Over the course of a few days, guests shared stories and engaged in dialogue around their personal faith and areas of study. Though very diverse, the students are on career paths where they may face those who are coping with death and loss. These future chaplains, and pastoral or family therapists and caregivers were invited to participate in the Lantern Floating to reaffirm their paths and with the hope that they would gain new perspectives on death and dying to help them provide comfort to others for many years to come.
L to R: Dr. Feryal Salem, Luba Ahmad-Rufai and Taha El-Nil Foundation guests with their lanterns
One student, Taha El-Nil, is enrolled in the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary, working towards obtaining his Masters degree. He also holds rank of Second Lieutenant in the US Air Force Reserves as part of the Chaplain Candidate Program, and is set to be among the few Muslim Chaplains in the Air Force. Taha shares his reflection on the experience here:
The Lantern Floating Ceremony was a blending of a dignified tradition and a vibrant culture. It took a simple, yet powerful, activity of lantern making, and transformed it into an equally cathartic experience for its participants. Death became a transformative, empowering experience because of how precisely it impacted us all as human beings, allowing us to connect and share with strangers on the same shore of grief, acceptance and resolve to cherish the memories of our loved ones. I loved and grew from this ceremony in ways I did not expect and I have grown to have nothing but deep respect for the goals, aspirations and challenges of the Shinnyo-en Order and Foundation.
Please check out this 10-min video featuring this year’s guests, produced by the Foundation and Bill Paris.