Buddhist lantern-floating festival fosters interfaith spirit

Jewish News, July 30, 2015

Surrey, UK -- Over 500 people attended a Buddhist lantern-floating ceremony this week, encouraging different faiths to mix and develop a mutual understanding.

Different faiths gathered for the traditional Shinnyo Lantern Floating Ceremony at the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Centre in Surrey.

Taking place on Saturday 26 July, it brought together families, mixed-faith groups, and even the Deputy Mayor of Elmbridge.

The day began with a session with the interfaith group, Friends for Change – a positive social action project..

Shohei Nishino, Head of Shinnyo-en UK, performed the lantern-floating ritual, inviting each member of the audience to write a personal message or prayer of remembrance, friendship or hope on a lantern. The lanterns were lit and floated across the lake in the centre’s grounds. The ceremony  originates in the Japanese Buddhist custom of remembering friends and loved ones who have passed away.

Sam Bennis, a member of the New North London Synagogue and interfaith group Friends for Change, said: “I think days like these are really important for the community to come together – especially when life can be so busy. It’s been a fantastic day and it seems like everyone has really appreciated being given that moment to remember what’s important to them.”

Rev. Michiko Delucia, Director of Interfaith Programmes for Shinnyo-en UK, said: “The ceremony is a fantastic opportunity for our local community of Buddhists in Surbiton to get to know our neighbours even better, and connect with other faith organisations. Lantern Floating has deep roots in Shinnyo Buddhism, with the beautiful, peaceful and inclusive rite allowing people to create a moment to express personal gratitude for the past, put something positive into action in the present and nurture hope for the future.”

The event also saw traditional Buddhist chanting and live music.

Shinnyo-en UK was established in 1994.