When I started working on this project, it was encouraging to know that besides it being spiritually approved and materially suported by the community, I was allowed to use my own creativity and to seek the necessary help.
This was the fall of 1986 and the first of its kind was just held in Italy in the city of Assisi and there were articles and enough to read concerning what was behind the scenes in the preparation.
When the Franciscans at the top levels in Rome sent out an invitation to communites in other countries to do the same, at the same time there was a restrictive instruction to be followed. It stated that we should come together to offer prayers but not to pray together.
Of course in a practical sense we could not expect Jews nor Muslims to offer prayers “through Jesus Christ Our Lord” as is usually said in Christian formulas and we could not expect Christians to offer prayers to Ganesh etc.
So we had separate groups, each recite or chant their traditional prayers at ease in their own words while others remained silent, and that seemed like a reasonable solution.
For me it was also allowing us to see one reality of our differences but at the end of the prayers I insisted that we had some 10 minutes of total silence in which time I felt we had the chance of seeing how close we are as humans.
There were the logistics of such a meeting and for that, I will always remain thankful to all those who spontaneously offered their assistance. I had to go to each group and collect the prayers which they were going to chant and if the prayers were in a language like Sanskrit or Hindi or Vietnamese, I needed translations so others could follow. Some friends took the whole responsability of printing the programs.
In this first year, I did not reach out for help from any one Franciscan in particular. Such help came the following year very spontaneously from friar Francois who was a novice at the time and was impressed with that ceremony and he said, “If you are doing this next year again, I want to help!”
My youngest brother Michael was a student at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts at the time and on the occasion of his exhibitions I was introduced to some of his close friends. I counted very much not only on the appreciation of my work but their opinions and support meant a lot to me as they were young people engaged to be future citizens living here in Montreal.
it was at that time I met Paul Yeargens who was a friend of my brother and another art student and Paul was renting a huge loft on Mount Royal.
His loft was a meeting place of many and he also had some good friends from New york who came to visit. I was always enriched by the variety of these young people and also was amazed at their musical talents. Brian Stevens and Richard Robertson were excellent traversal- flute players and another drums and at times we had some nice sessions going.
In those days, I knew that although the religious community in which I lived was spiritually strengthening, this other ‘outside community’ was also very spiritual and grounding and brought their own elements of awakening into my life. I needed them as much as I needed also my Franciscan brothers. I am thankful that in the Franciscan tradition, we were not ‘monks’ in the true sense of the world especially as St Francis himself was not a ‘monk’ in the time he lived. His community of brothers became known as ‘friars’. “The Order of Little brothers” (L’Ordre des Freres Mineurs” or “Fratrem Minorem”) are the true names. It was never called “Franciscans”, that came after his death!
He was close to the people and not estranged to them and so I was very happy that I could spend some free time with these my ‘outside brothers’.
One day, Paul said to me, “Rolph there is somebody I would like you to meet” and he introduced me to Korkor Amarteifio. She was originally from Ghana and when she heard about the work I was doing, she immediately showed enthusiam and offered to be of assistance.
This “Inter-Faith Peace Prayer” meant something to her because she was at the time doing in Montreal, a festival called ” Rythme du monde” which looks at world music and what happens to the music when cultures meet. This festival brought African, Caribbean and Latin American music to Montreal audiences. It was not known in those days as “World Music.”
It was Korkor who showed me how to make a plan called a “critical path”, a sort of calendar for the event. It starts with the end result and walks through all the things one needs each day to arrive at the final event.
We had it planned that the participants would, from each religious group, bring food, a vegetarian potluck which we would eat after the prayers and which would allow those interested, to meet the delgates and ‘break the bread’ or share some food together.
Korkor was also very helpful in setting up the tables and arranging the food to look very appetitizing on the tables as we came downstairs to eat.
Korkor had to return to her home in Ghana and the last year she was here, I had her take part as a delegate as she entered with flowers and ornated the altar.
There were also friends from the Yoga Center, Andre Deladurantaye and Jean-Pierre Nadeau and his brother Michel who helped in printing and arranging the prayer sheets. They were my close helpers in the first year and others joined in later years
For all those who helped, I will be forever thankful
(to be continued))