The Prayer Vigil for the Earth

The annual Prayer Vigil for the Earth is now in its 20th year and takes place next to the Washington Monument every fall. An icon of spirituality in our nation’s capital, people of diverse faiths, cultures, ethnic backgrounds and all ages gather together to pray for harmony with the Earth and each other -- and to share knowledge, celebrate, and participate respectfully in multi-faith ceremonies. The Prayer Vigil, a 100 percent volunteer event, continues to expand each year by adding more simultaneous celebrations at various sites in the United States and throughout the world.

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For two days, a circle of tipis and structures sacred to other religions and faiths surround a sacred fire in the heart of Washington, between the Washington Monument and the White House. Native American Elders, who host the event, invite spiritual leaders from all major faiths to join them. The tipis and other holy structures stand as symbols of spiritual community amidst the prominent symbols of our great Nation. The Prayer Vigil exemplifies the joy and benefits of community, creativity, cooperation, and spirituality. The Prayer Vigil’s atmosphere of reverence and gratitude for nature and for the diversity of human experience transcends the cynicism that is too common in our culture today.

The Vigil begins on Friday when a Peace Village comprised of tipis, a Jewish sukkah, a Christian chapel, a Buddhist stupa, an African Ancestral Altar and other structures, is created near the towering Washington Monument, in view of the White House and the Capitol. The wood fire, which burns continuously in the center of the Peace Village, symbolizes the gift of life and the fire in the center of the Earth.

The Vigil is free and open to everyone. People are encouraged to enter the circle and the Village, where they can participate in activities including talking circles on a variety of subjects, continuous silent prayer for the Earth, walking the labyrinth, a children’s tipi devoted to drawing pictures of healthy Earth, or listening to the main program. The Peace Village is a place where similarities are highlighted and differences respected.

Within the Peace Village, personal experience with the lore and ceremonies of many different traditions allows participants to identify themselves as part of a global family, and learn the principles of a sustainable world. It is an elevating experience!

Some History About the Vigil …

Since 1997, one of the key goals for the Prayer Vigil has been to create a continuous prayer circle around the world as the sun rises the morning of the Prayer Vigil. Prayers are focused on the theme for that year's Vigil. In 1997 the theme was: "Working and Praying Together to Provide a Sustainable World for the Generations to Come.” In 1998 the theme was "Gathering to Pray that Present and Future Beings on Earth Know Unity and Love". In 1999 our prayers centered around Youth for World Peace and in 2000 we were focused on creating a worldwide culture of peace. In 2001 our focus was on healing, peace and tolerance after the Sept. 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 2002 through 2012 have focused on world peace and reconciliation between diverse cultures.

The Prayer Vigil for the Earth was founded in 1993 under the leadership of Grandfather Harry F. Byrd (Lakota Nation), Sharon Franquemont, Betsy Stang and David Berry. All faiths were invited as partners and encouraged to express their own traditions at the Vigil. Since its founding, the Vigil has grown tremendously, attracting hundreds of volunteers who work on all aspects of the event. In addition to Indigenous traditions from North and Central America, Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, Jains, Hindus, Muslims, members of Shinji Shumeikai, Sikhs, members of the Yoruba tradition, and others are part of The Prayer Vigil community. The two-day program facilitates shared experience through ceremony, prayer, song, talking circles and dance from these many traditions.

Among others, Prayer Vigil for the Earth partners are: The Wittenberg Center for Alternative Resources; Sacred Space, an organization serving African American and Native American people; Rabbi David Schneyer of Am Kollel, Washington, DC; Sheykh Abdul Kerim el-Kibrisi, Osamanli Naks-I’bendi Hakkani Dergahi; The World Peace Prayer Society, New York; The Interfaith Conference of Washington, DC; The United Religions Initiative, San Francisco; and the Baha’i Center, Washington, DC.

May Peace Prevail on Earth!