Different faiths, same values
CHRISTIANS are in the midst of the Lent season, a period of 40 days before Easter.
Easter is the Christian celebration of Jesus’s resurrection three days after he was crucified and buried, thus proclaiming victory over sin and death. This year, Easter falls on Sunday, April 16.
One of my most memorable Easters was 30 years ago, almost to the day.
I had just arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, (one of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority countries) to take up my assignment as the head of the United Nations/International Labour Organisation (UN/ILO) country office.
With Easter just around the corner, the chief technical adviser (CTA) of one of our UN/ILO technical cooperation country projects, a Roman Catholic, organised a simple Easter get-together at his home.
He invited officials associated with the project.
There were about 30 guests and project personnel, seated casually within earshot of each other, mostly Muslims with a few Christians and Hindus — reflecting the country’s population composition.
The main guest was the chairman of the national hotel and tourism corporation, under which agency the training centre was established.
A short while after the chairman walked in, he called out to the CTA and said something like: “Michael, you’ve got us all here for an Easter get-together. Tell us what it’s all about and how it relates to us in any way.”
Michael politely passed that request over to the Archbishop of Dhaka, the head of the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese, also a guest.
The bishop said the message of Easter was one of love, hope, peace and joy, from death to life.
When he had finished, an elderly workers’ union leader, an Islamic scholar, declared that Muslims believe in Jesus as a prophet sent by God. He told those gathered that followers of Islam, too, were exhorted to spread compassion, love and peace as contained in the Quran.
Another guest, a successful businesswoman, said religious festivals created an opportunity for those of different faiths to come together to share their thoughts and work together for social harmony in the country and the wellbeing of all humanity.
A Hindu administrative assistant with the project added that the Hindu scriptures also extolled the virtues of love and respect for all living beings.
A while later, the chairman announced that he would host the next get-together at the time of Eid-ul-Fitr and asked others to do likewise on other occasions.
RUEBEN DUDLEY Petaling Jaya, Selangor