We did not want to place the event on a Sunday or on other days which were specifically special days of worship in the different temples because of the inconvenience.
The only day which was left was the Thursday and so it was chosen the Thursday of the last week in October. It was also the week in which there were events organized in favor of World peace, so it stayed in that date for all the other years and we tried our best to stick to the same schedule.
Each religious group that participated had given us a copy of the prayers and we had them translated so participants could follow. And in as much as there were about a dozen different groups we asked if their prayers could be restricted to about ten minutes each.
At the end there will be a ten minutes silence followed by a distribution of flowers for peace and from there a procession to the dining area.
In the very first year I asked the Native elders if they could start by doing the prayers to the Four Corners and begin the chants. They used sweet grass also.
The others who followed were in the order of time and I placed first the Hindus, then the Jews and the Buddists and Muslims and the Sikhs and in as much as we were the hosts, we, the Christians were last.
Both the Jewish rabbi and the Iman said they will not offer prayers in a place where there were so many statues and a crucifix.
As Christians, there is no obligation as to not being able to pray without these things, I agreed to find a place to offer the prayers in a more less ornated space.
Our Franciscan chapel in Rosemont, Montreal,was built very simply and I got permission to put a banner for peace to cover the crucifix which hung on the wall above the altar. (This was done as from the second year), because….
Our chapel was in repairs and so I went to the Dominicans on Cote Ste Catherine and they graciously allowed us the use of the chapel and the hall below for a price of $140 dollars. Their superior gave us the permission to remove the crucifix for the time of the prayers.
The rabbi gave his consent and was present but I got a last minute call from the Iman (who was a very nice person but who had to follow the orders of the comittee at the mosque).
The committe for the mosque on Chester ave. in Montreal forbid their iman to attend and so for the very first year, there was no official Muslim representative!
There was a Muslim musician from Africa who had been recommended by Korkor to play some music during the meal and he showed up all dressed in a white African traditional garment and I asked him if he could be so kind as to take part in the entrance ceremony and in his heart he will represent his tradition.
It was a pity I did not know that the mosque would have done this at the last minute otherwise I could have found another solution.
Finally, the morning of that first Inter-Faith Peace Prayer in the Spirit of Assisi in Montreal arrived.
It was a beautiful autumn day with cold temperatures but blue skies and all the delegates were lined up in the yard outside the chapel on Cotes des Neiges Road and we slowly began entering.
It was very colorful and very heartwarming to see the Native elder with his feathers and rattle as we walked up the steps leading all these varieties of monks, of men and women, Buddhists in yellow and orange and Hindus and Dominican priests in white, Franciscans in brown, members of Orthodox churches in black and the other members of Christian denominations, Anglicans and Catholic and members of the Montreal Council of Churches.
This building also had an adjoined series of classes affiliated with the University of Montreal….attributing credits for students in theology.
The classes could have been under the Direction of the University and so they were not cancelled. One of the professors told me that when he saw the procession, he thought “this is worth a thousand of my classes and had I of known in advance, I would have made a point for my students to be present!”
As we walked into that chapel that morning I had the definite feeling that this work we were doing was not something of human effort not was it something that any one religion or tradition could claim as their own.
I was convinced that this work was not even the work of any Church but it was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and we were the simple instruments.
What Pope John Paul did in Assisi in that October of 1986 and what was being done this day a year later in Montreal, and as we walked this path together in silence we were led by the Spirit and from now on, things could never be the same for us all.