Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shining a Light into 2012

Published as "Light over Darkeness" in Off the Wall with Padre James Bhagwan - Fiji Times (Wednesday 14th December, 2011)

As the HIV/AIDS wave began to crash on our shores and as communities were faced

not only with a new virus, that at the time, was a physical and emotional death sentence for those who contracted HIV and were rejected by their families, friends and communities, Sister Emi Oh, founder of CAPE (Churches, AIDS Pastoral care and Education), called on society to, “Instead of Cursing the Darkness, Light a Candle.”

While this statement was made in response to the attitude towards the epidemic and people living with HIV and AIDS, it is a phrase that rings true all the situations of apparent hopelessness that we find ourselves in.

I remember, living in London in 2000, coming across an article in the Evening Standard news paper which reported on the daily candlelight vigils taking place in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Suva during the hostage crisis in parliament in 2000. These inter-faith prayer vigils which were organised by the National Council of Women in Fiji, of which my sister Sharon was Secretary at the time, continued in the years to follow, becoming a monthly safe space for reflection, solidarity and the expression of hope.

Candlelight vigils are usually held as a way to remember lives lost to some disease, disaster, massacre or other tragedy or protest the suffering of some marginalized group of people.

It is hoped that by holding a candlelight vigil, participants will create awareness of the problem by shining light onto something often kept hidden. Vigils are usually moments of silence which gives those taking part a space to quietly reflect in the issue. It is way to share a sense of peace, hope, and commitment in a community.

This year, I participated in three events that used candles to reflect and inspire. The first was at the AIDS Candlelight Memorial Service hosted by the Pacific Conference of Churches at Dudley Church in Suva in May. There the First Lady, Adi Koila Nailatikau lit the first of over 300 candles to remember those Fijians who have lost their lives to AIDS.

In August, at the Biennial Consultation of Hindi Speaking Fellowships, candles were lit for members of this community of the Methodist Indo-Fijian diaspora who had passed away in the last two years.

In both these occasions it was a time of reflection – of lives; some complete, some abruptly ended before their time; a time for reflection on what was and also what could have been.

But there was another event in which candles were lit for reflection but also in which they were lit for inspiration. At the welcome service for the consultation mentioned above, the youth of Dudley Church, a group of ethnically mixed, dynamic young people, performed a dance with candles and diya. The dance was to a Hindi translation of the song “Carry Your Candle” by Chris Rice:

There is a candle in every soul; some brightly burning, some dark and cold.
There is a Spirit who brings fire; ignites a candle and makes His home.
Carry your candle, run to the darkness; seek out the hopeless, confused and torn.
Hold out your candle for all to see it; Take your candle, and go light your world.

Frustrated brother, see how he's tried to light his own candle some other way.
See now your sister, she's been robbed and lied to, still holds a candle without a flame.

Carry your candle, run to the darkness; seek out the hopeless, confused and torn.
Hold out your candle for all to see it; Take your candle, and go light your world.

We are a family whose hearts are blazing, so let's raise our candles and light up the sky.
Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus, make us a beacon in darkest times.
Carry your candle, run to the darkness; seek out the hopeless, confused and torn.
Hold out your candle for all to see it; Take your candle, and go light your world.

As we journey through the Christian season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, in many churches last Sunday we lit the candle of joy. In the previous two Sundays the candles of hope and peace were lit as a reminder that Christ will come again and bring us everlasting peace and joy.

This Sunday, the fourth candle of Advent, the Candle of Love, will be lit. Its light is meant to remind us of the love that God has for us.

The American civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. Said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. “

Last week I posted a suggestion on my status page on Facebook. It read:

“How about a nation-wide Candlelight Vigil for the last 10mins of 2011? In every home, church, place of worship.... 10mins of silent reflection ... on the year that was... 10mins of silent meditation ... in preparation of the year to come... 10mins of silent prayer for our home and nation of Fiji... The candle to symbolise the light that will help us find our way.... Click LIKE if you think is possible and you are willing to commit and let’s see if we can get some positivity flowing!”

Encouraged by the response to this post, I invite, I urge every community of faith, every neighbourhood, settlement, village on December 31st, and light a candle as a sign of hope, of your commitment to peace, compassion and justice and to making 2012 a better year for all in Fiji. Whether it is done in your church, mandli, kava session or in your home, each light can be a beacon of positivity and together they can herald 2012 as a year of enlightenment for our people and our country.

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” (Edith Wharton - American poet, novelist and short-story writer, 1862-1937)

On New Year ’s Eve this year, you have an opportunity to be a candle and shine, or a mirror to reflect, the light in your soul.

Carry your candle, run to the darkness, Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor. Hold out your candle for all to see it. Take your candle, and go light your world

“Simplicity, Serenity and Spontaneity”

Rev. J.S. Bhagwan is a doting husband and father. He is currently a student of the International Graduate School of Theology at the Methodist Theological University in Seoul, South Korea. Read more by visiting

No comments:

Post a Comment