Tuvalu, The Fiji Times, Inglês


What a wonderful country we live in! I am Christian, but I have just celebrated Eid al Fitr with friends.

Every Christmas I receive special greetings from one of my Muslim friends.

So every year I watch for the moon at the end of his time of fasting to see when I can send him Eid greetings.

I have Hindu friends too so I need to keep abreast of their many celebrations as well as celebrating Diwali with some of them.

Every year I am conscious of when the Chinese New Year is coming. Part of my family is Chinese and they celebrate sharing special food and, as they are no longer in Fiji, I look forward to seeing the pictures of the special meals they have enjoyed, sent via the internet.

Do we take the time to realise how unique Fiji is and how blessed we are?

Well I guess it not so unique because the world is much more multi ethnic and multi religious that in past times when travel was not so easy.

And sadly, for some countries even now, tensions arise between religious groups too easily and break communities apart.

Here in Fiji we have had our tensions, and we should give thanks for the great work that was done in the 1980s through to the early years of this century, by the little NGO called Interfaith Search Fiji.

I am not sure what has happened to Interfaith Search Fiji.

In those past times it was public in its efforts to prevent inter-religious strife, speaking out at times of desecration of places of religious importance and value to the adherents.

Interfaith Search Fiji was set up in 1987 after the first coup d’etat when inter-religious tensions were very high, with the intention of building respect and understanding between people of different faith traditions.

It held workshops to increase understanding and held regular inter-faith discussions on selected topics. It went to schools with materials and produced video as well as written materials.

Interfaith Search Fiji members devised a prayer that could be used by all at any gathering where there were people of different faiths, which is the case in many meetings in Fiji.

It is a prayer for our country Fiji. I wonder if it is ever used now?

In times of national disaster Interfaith Search Fiji would organise a special multi-religious time of prayer, gathering in one of the religious centres, usually a Christian church who were always willing hosts.

At the time of the 2000 coup people of all faiths gathered in the Holy Trinity Cathedral here in Suva every lunch hour to pray silently for those being held hostage in Veiuto.

I am still, in my old age, on the board of one NGO. It works quietly in the rural areas encouraging the people to see how they can help themselves.

SEEP or Social Empowerment Education Program to give it its full name, has a staff of around 20, a group of mostly young people of mixed ethnic and religious backgrounds.

As much of the work takes the staff out to the rural areas, or into informal settlements, the office is not always bustling with activity.

However, each day work begins after the staff have gathered together for a short reflection and prayer.

The organisation makes an effort keep a family spirit of togetherness, meeting regularly to report and to plan and occasionally to celebrate religious festivals or staff member birthdays.

A recent celebration has been Eid al Fitr. The staff came together at midday and the gathering was given a short talk about Islam, prepared by one of the staff.

This was followed by a special short reflection, prepared by another member of staff, on the situation in Gaza and the Muslims there suffering great hardship, while we were able to celebrate their special festival with plenty.

A short prayer of thanksgiving followed and then everyone began to share the rich food prepared, some by some of the staff and some brought in from outside.

There was chicken palau and lamb curry, puri and a tomato chutney followed by dessert of sewai, and halwa, and for those who wanted, a cup of tea.

It is good to know something about each other’s beliefs and to share together in religious celebrations.

In this troubled world there is a need for more understanding and for interreligious discussions so that we can all respect one another, our different ways of worship and our different understandings of the almighty Creator God.

  • TESSA MACKENZIE is a regular contributor to this newspaper. The views expressed are hers and do not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper.




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