We meet here today in a celebration of praise to God. It is our love of God which underlies our relationship with each other. What makes brothers out of men of different nations is certainly not blood, nor cultural values, nor ideology. What makes us brothers and sisters is our love of God.
This year is now the seventh year that the Prize for Progress in Religion is being given. From its inception, its purpose has been to honour the person who has made a significant breakthrough to increase man’s love of God, or man’s understanding of God.
What honour we bestow by coming together here each year is small, however, when compared to the achievements of the prize winners themselves. Both this year’s winner, Mr. Nikkyo Niwano, and each of the previous winners have taught us a very special lesson.
That lesson is that one cannot separate man’s love of God and man’s understanding of God. Our under- standing of God is not always clear; it is never complete. But every time we grasp a glimpse of him, every time we perceive his control of us — we are helpless not to love him more and more.
Let us, then, praise God by trying to serve as a vehicle of his purpose. What is that purpose? That man should turn from man’s many conflicting truths to God’s single and timeless Truth. Man’s truths are personal and partisan, and they often require force and coercion to succeed. They breed anxiety and tension as one man’s values are pitted against another’s.
Great things have been done in the name of man, but things that endure come from God. As Jim Jones took hundreds of followers to a new life in Guyana. It was proclaimed as a life free of both racial discord and material want. Yet, when crisis came, where were the eyes of the people directed? Their eyes were not directed at God and his Truth. They had made man their king and they died with their king — not a death of peace and salvation, but a death of despair.
This year’s prize winner — Mr. Nikkyo Niwano — saw clearly more than 40 years ago the shallowness of man’s truths. He set for himself a twofold goal — to discern God’s Truth and to extend that Truth to others. He has pursued these goals with energy and vigour. Under his influence millions of men and women have come to embrace God and his Truth as the perfect guide to their lives.
Mr. Niwano recently said, “All mankind must embrace the sacred teachings and put them to work in everyday life. The true value of religion becomes apparent when we realize that religion is life and life is religion’. Mr. Niwano’s gift to us is his vision for all of us as children of God. Whether we come as Buddhist, Muslim or Christian, Jew or Hindu, he has tried to foster a climate whereby man’s love and understanding of God can flourish. For this gift we honour him and we thank him.
In conclusion we wish to thank in particular each of the judges who contributed so much time and prayer in evaluating and selecting our prize winner. We are grateful to the Board of Advisors who worked to improve the programme. Finally, we are deeply grateful for the continued interest of His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh who this morning presented the Seventh Annual Prize for Progress in Religion to Mr. Niwano at Windsor Castle.