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Cohesive Existence (July 2019)

Dear Friends

Some of you will know that I was recently travelling around Australia and South East Asia, visiting some amazing places and seeing wonderful sights.

Apart from meeting up with family members who live so far away, sightseeing was at the top of my list of things to do and some of this time was spent looking at places of spirituality and worship.

So why did I decide to write about this in our newsletter? The simple answer is that I was so struck by the diversity of religion, beliefs and cultures I saw, I thought it was worth sharing some of it with you.

In Australia, the beautiful city cathedrals, contrasted with the tiny Lutheran chapels scattered around small South Australian townships, most of them built by German emigrants who were fleeing religious persecution in Prussia in the 19th Century. Nowadays they are still well attended and play an important part in their communities.

Then there was the visit to the special areas in the outback which are sacred to the Indigenous Australians. These include caves, canyons and traditional areas of open land which have belonged to these people for more than 65,000 years and are still inhabited by some today. Their spiritual belief is based on the ‘Dreamtime’, that the Universe is a moral and social order and that humanity and nature are one and of equal value. What a great goal that would be for the world!

‘Dreamtime’ goes way back to creation and is a beginning that has no end. These people do not have buildings in which to practice their beliefs but there was a real sense of spirituality in their sacred areas and we visitors showed great respect whilst there.

Moving on to Singapore, I was surprised to come across a large, very impressive Methodist church in the middle of the city. Six services are held here every Sunday in three different languages, as well as youth and junior church meetings.

Then there was Melaka, a fascinating old city with a past full of history and a true ‘melting pot’ of races, cultures and amazing diversity of beliefs and religious practices. A friendly place where everyone seems to tolerate each other.

In the main square are St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Christ Church and the Tamil Methodist Church. Just a short walk away and all in the same street I saw the beautiful Seikh Gurdwara Sahib Temple, the impressive Kampung Hulu Mosque and the exquisite, very busy Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese Temple which is attended by followers of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

Perhaps now is the time to point out that this is not a piece from a tourist guide book! I simply want to emphasise that these are a few examples in just one area of our world that show great diversity of religious belief, cultures, languages, race, showing how people can live along side one another respectfully. Each serving their various faiths and beliefs and peacefully going about their everyday lives, sometimes in spite of harsh laws set by their governments.

This got me thinking about how we as Christians, individually and as a church, might sometimes find difficulty in accepting faiths and beliefs that are, on the face of it, so different to those we are used to. This may be because we don’t understand them or know little about them. Interestingly and looking a little closer, I think along the way I discovered a few things we also all have in common spiritually.

Perhaps we should take the time to find out more, read, ask questions, even visit other places of beliefs in our multicultural city. This may lead us to a better understanding and tolerance of other beliefs, religious practices, cultures and most importantly of all human beings.

At another level, away from spirituality, sometimes we need to respect, accept and try to understand other’s opinions which may differ from ours. Look back at the words at the end of Marian’s piece in the June newsletter, ‘cohesive existence’. This really sums up my message.

Jenny Rich