The Words of the Ledesma Family
Sydney, Australia -- The first bi-monthly of UPF-Australia Ambassadors for Peace meeting for 2011 was held at the Oceania Peace Embassy in Sydney, Australia on February 7. This was "Interfaith Prayer for the Flood and Cyclone Victims in Queensland." Many parts of Australia, but especially the state of Queensland, have experienced catastrophic natural disasters and extreme weather conditions in recent weeks.
As some background: the devastating Cyclone Yasi, the strongest in many decades, hit the Queensland coast on February 3. In the preceding weeks, flood waters ravaged a substantial part of Queensland, including Brisbane, Queensland's capital city, resulting in substantial loss of property and livelihood, and in some areas, many lives.
Miraculously, although the cyclone also caused enormous loss of property and livelihood, only one death has been reported to date. Australia has also been experiencing flooding in the northern part of the state of New South Wales and in parts of the state of Victoria, fires near Perth (Western Australia's capital city), and a record-breaking heat wave in Sydney.
The spirit of volunteerism and the instinctive desire to help complete strangers was brought to the fore as tens of thousands came forward to offer assistance through the crises.
To prepare for the presentations, candles were lit as a symbol of hope against the grief and devastation experienced by many, and in memory of those who lost their lives.
Leading representatives from four religious faith traditions planned to be present, although at the last minute the Islamic representative was unable to attend. The representatives from Christianity, Buddhism, and Unificationism shared anecdotally and from their faiths, and led prayers and meditations.
One highlighted story was of the boy who, while hanging on in raging flood waters, insisted to rescuers that his younger brother be saved first, ultimately resulting in his own loss of life -- a profound and extreme example of "living for the sake of others."
The three religious leaders inspired everybody, in focusing on the enduring aspects of life, to reach out to those victims with our hearts and minds.
The evening's proceedings also included a summary of UPF's Annual Report for 2010 internationally, and of events held nationally.
The Honorable David Clarke, Member of Parliament, in welcoming the assembled gathering, gave his glowing endorsement of UPF as the only organization in the world that can bring together people of different faith traditions, cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds to so effectively address the key problems facing mankind in the light of universal principles.
This was an extraordinary evening during an unprecedentedly difficult time for Australia.