Published in The Fiji Times - Off the Wall with Padre James Bhagan, Thursday, June 24, 2010
Last Thursday's Fiji Times (17/6/10) carried an article by Felix Chaudry, titled, "Surprise visit moves hearts in village."
The article reported on about a visit by the Divisional Superintendent of the Indian Division - Rev. William Lucas, along with some youth leaders of the Division to Navala Village in Ba.
Navala, is a national heritage village, and is prominently featured in many tourism campaigns due to the picturesque thatched bure that are home to 127 families.
Twelve of these bure were destroyed by a fire in May this year. The article was of note as Chaudry had described the village as a "Catholic stronghold" and the visit was by Methodists who brought almost a "van-load of supplies and education assistance," with them.
This is a story of one part of the Body of Christ feeling the pain of another part.
On hearing of the plight of the Navala Villagers, the Indian Division Youth Coordinator, Fesitoka Mosese had contacted all the youth leaders in the 11 Circuits of the Indian Division and asked them to bring with them whatever they could for relief assistance when the youth of the Indian Division met for their annual rally in Ba (June 11-14, 2010).
Mr Mosese felt that by doing this the young men and women of the Indian Division would participate in practical Christianity.
Both he and Rev. Lucas shared with me how overwhelmed they were by the enthusiastic response of the youths.
As a result of the supplies collected the original plan to take all the youth leaders to Navala to handover the supplies and a small donation to assist the children with their schooling had to be modified as the supplies filled "Qase's" van.
Over 250 young people from Lautoka, Ba, Nadi, Sigatoka, Vision College, Navua, Suva, Nausori, Labasa and even Taveuni of different ethnicities came together for the 2010 Indian Division Annual Youth Rally, with the theme, "The Year of Double Portion."
From the response of the Navala villagers, this theme was realised even before the rally ended.
The youth rally also consisted sessions on HIV and AIDS, contemporary worship, mission and comparative religion and ecumenism, the search for visible unity among the churches as well as spiritual and social activities.
Perhaps the best lesson for the youth, the Indian Division leaders and the people of Navala was that we are part of a community - as Christians, as Fiji Islanders, as human beings.
As fellow human beings who share this planet, and locally for us, who share this country, we need to be constantly mindful of each other's situation.
In other words, we need to be able to, as a peace-builder said to me recently, "put ourselves in the shoes of others."
This means looking at things from a different perspective than we are used to.
This may be uncomfortable at first, but as we get used to the different lenses we wear, we find that once we strip away our ideological differences and the other trappings of culture and society we have the same needs, the same fears, the same longings.
The "Roman Catholic" people of Navala and the "Indian Methodists" encounter a fortnight ago gives us a glimpse of what happens when we put aside denominationalism (or religious differences for that matter) and realise that we all belong in the "household of God."
As our community and religious leaders continue to struggle with finding a way forward amidst their own fears and preconceptions, this simple encounter and act of compassion heralds the work towards unity taking place at the grass-roots level.
Recently I found myself reflecting on the "golden rule of ethics" (not to be confused with the rule of economics that "he who has the gold makes the rule).
The Golden Rule for right relations, 'Love your neighbour as yourself' or 'Do as you would be done by', is to be found in some form in all religions and spiritual traditions.
Here are six examples I found in a document titled, "A culture of peace: Women, faith and reconciliation"
* Do not treat others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful (The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.18)
* In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you (Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:12)
* This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you (Mahabharata 5:1517)
* Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself (The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith)
* What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour (Hillel,Talmud, Shabbath 31a)
* Regard your neighbour's gain as your own gain and your neighbour's loss as your own loss (T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien, 213-218)
May the rest of your week be blessed with light, love, peace and the vision needed to see the other as yourself.