Published in The Fiji Times - Off the Wall with padre James Bhagwan, Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Yesterday's Fiji Times (FT 2/11) carried an article in which once again the wrong assumption was made that All Saints Day is only commemorated by the Catholic Church.
In fact, it is part of the Christian calendar and is celebrated by a number of Christian denominations, including the Anglican Church (hence All Saints School in Labasa).
While Methodists may not have a specific feast day or major church service to commemorate All Saints Day, according to the journals of Methodism founder John Wesley, it was one of his favourite days in the Christian calendar. (Wesley was of course, an Anglican priest until his death).
The article also neglected that the day after All Saints Day was All Souls Day.
While doctrine and dogma may divide why it is done, All Soul's Day pays respect and remembers the souls of all friends and loved ones who have died and gone either to heaven or to purgatory.
Later this week, the festival of lights will be celebrated in Fiji.
Diwali is a major Hindu religious festival just as Christmas and Easter are recognised as major Christian religious festivals and Eid is recognised as a major festival for Muslims.
However, beyond that Diwali is a major event for all Fijians — even to the point where it is celebrated as a public holiday.
Because like Christmas and Easter, the date for Diwali is able to be determined in advance, it is able to be gazetted as a public holiday.
Eid as a moveable feast — determined by the sighting of the moon is not and so Prophet Mohammed's birthday is celebrated as a public holiday.
The point is that the entire nation celebrates Diwali in some way or the other.
We dress up the day before and wear Indian outfits to work.
Many of us, especially the children enjoy tucking in to the sweets and savouries made for Diwali.
We enjoy setting off firecrackers or watching them light up the night sky and we marvel at the dazzling displays of lights in homes.
Similarly, many enjoy the sewai (vermicelli) served during Eid, and many non-Christians get together as a family and exchange gifts and have a meal during Christmas.
On these days, just as on days when Fiji is playing in a sevens cup final, many of us are of one mind.
We truly have one focus and intent. Our consciousness is shared.
The other day I read about the Global Consciousness Project (GCP), an international effort involving researchers from several institutions and countries, designed to explore whether the construct of interconnected consciousness can be scientifically validated through objective measurement.
According to GCP, the subtle but real effects of consciousness are important scientifically, but their real power is more direct.
They encourage us to help make essential, healthy changes in the great systems that dominate our world.
Large scale group consciousness has effects in the physical world.
Knowing this, we can use our full capacities for creative movement toward a conscious future.
We live in a country where the web of life is acknowledged.
We innately know to respect the land, sea and the air because that is what sustains us.
We live lives of reciprocity – sharing and caring.
This is our natural state.
We all traditionally value relationship over material wealth.
This sustains us when we encounter difficult financial times.
We succeed not when we are independent but when we are interdependent.
Some time ago I attended special Mass in the Hindi language at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, in which Indian cultural adaptations were used.
The service, known as the Missa Puja and many others that I have attended and participated in during this particular time of the year in the Methodist Church's Indian Division focus on the Christian perspective of celebrating light, particularly Christ as the Light of the World.
Incidentally, the Indian Division often uses the diya (a small earthenware lamp) as its symbol to symbolise the Christ-light.
On Thursday evening, the night before Diwali, members of Dudley Circuit's Nanuku Settlement Church will hold a special candle-light service to celebrate the Christ-light that burns in their hearts — the light of justice, compassion; the light of unconditional love.
There are forces at work that promote individualism, materialism, selfishness and greed.
These forces aim at dividing communities based on ethnicity and gender, which are nothing more than biological differences or religion — our spirituality and path to union with God.
What if instead of finding things to disagree on, to fight about, to dispute — we could spend one day supporting one part of the community in their important day. We could let their joy be our joy.
We could allow our joy to be theirs.
Our times of sadness would be theirs, our times of needs would be their time of generosity.
It sounds idealistic, I know, but perhaps that is what we need right now — the courage — have an ideal and the conviction to live it.
One people, one nation, one future together.
May your day, the rest of your week and your Diwali be blessed with the divine light of simplicity, serenity and spontaneity.
*Rev. J.S. Bhagwan is a probationary minister of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma serving as Librarian/Assistant Lecturer at Davuilevu Theological College and Associate Minister of Dudley Circuit in the Indian Division. All opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinion and policies of the Methodist Church in Fiji or any organization that Rev. Bhagwan is affiliated with.