Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, Thais and foreigners gathered for the first shared religious service in Phuket yesterday for those who died in the tsunami disaster. More than a thousand monks chanted together and 10,000 candles glowed throughout the service. During the open air ceremony, 100 illuminated paper lanterns were released into the sky in a symbolic Buddhist send-off for the spirits of the departed. Fr Peter Pakpoom from the Church of Our Lady of Assumption in Phuket led Catholic prayers for the souls of the dead that they might find peace and for the survivors that they be granted strength to rebuild their lives. Imam Naren Rodnakrat said Muslims, particularly in Indonesia and Thailand, have been badly hit by the tsunami, but his prayers went out to people from all over the world since "we all have the same roots even if our beliefs may differ". Venerable Phra Dhammakittiwong, head of Phuket's Buddhist monastic community, led the final prayers of the service, asking for strength and willpower for survivors that they may carry on and a blessing for those who died.
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