Adrian Long from the Taoist Federation explains the origin and significance of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Photo by Darren Boon
SINGAPORE – About 40 representatives of different faiths, including several Catholics, observed the International Day for Peace on Sep 21.
According to the United Nations (UN), the International Day for Peace was established in 1981 by the UN General Assembly “for commemorating and strengthening the ideas of peace within and among all nations and people”. In 2001, the General Assembly declared Sep 21 to be observed annually as a “day of global ceasefire and non-violence” and asked UN member states, organisations and individuals to mark the occasion through education and public awareness, and to work with the UN for establishing global ceasefire.
The evening’s observance was organised by the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) and held at the IRO’s headquarters in Geylang.
Those present also celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival, which fell on Sep 22 this year.
Speaking in Mandarin, IRO President Tan Thiam Lye told those present that the Mid-Autumn Festival is an occasion where Chinese families gather for a reunion. He added that harmonious racial and religious relations are essential for a country’s growth. Thus, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a befitting and special occasion for people of different faiths to gather to develop friendships and to enhance inter-racial and inter-religious ties.
The observance for peace included different faiths reading out their individual sacred texts relating to peace and singing the song, “Prayer for Peace”. Those present listened, reflected on the texts and prayed for peace in the world.
Canossian Sister Theresa Seow, Honorary Secretary of the IRO, said the annual observance was a “call for all of us to focus or refocus on the goal [for peace] by making a concentrated effort to think peace, to act peacefully and to pray for peace across diverse faith and wisdom traditions”.
She added that quieting down and praying for peace is not passive, and that the quiet might bring about change. “A collective consciousness for peace can begin to make a qualitative difference in our world,” she said.
Adrian Long from the Taoist Federation also gave a short introduction on the origins and significance of the Mid-Autumn Festival. For the Chinese, the Mid-Autumn Festival, considered to be a harvest festival, is the third and last festival for the living – starting with the Winter Solstice and then the Lunar New Year. The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the eight month of the fifteenth day of the lunar calendar. The date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year.
On this day, the Taoists worship the moon god for protection, family unity and good fortune. It is also an opportunity to express one’s gratitude to heaven, represented by the moon, for the blessings received over the year.
Mr Long added that the round mooncakes are eaten as a symbol of family unity and closeness.
Brigid Ng, a Catholic, said the evening allowed for reflection, meditation and sharing. She added that the news clippings on the various worldwide conflicts on a whiteboard were a big contrast to the evening’s serene mood and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.
Ashvin Desai, from the Jain faith, said the double celebration was an opportunity to bring the observance of peace and the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival together. “Both of them actually have a similar purpose of peace and goodwill,” he said, “I’m a Singaporean. Singaporeans celebrate all festivals, we’re very happy.”
By Darren Boon