Interfaith gathering in Fiji. Photo: Columban IRD
A most interesting Fijian youth interfaith encounter occurred on the “Leap Year” day of 29th February 2020, at the crypt of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Suva. It was a sharing by youths from various churches and religions on the meaning and practice of fasting in their traditions and in their own lives. It was organised by the Columban Interfaith Ministry desk, Fiji. The following are snippets of the rich mosaic of the young peoples’ reflections:
- The Satya Sai Organisation representative explained to us that the Sanskrit word for fasting ‘upasanaa’, really means ‘living in the presence of God’, and that abstinence, while not obligatory, is a powerful act of purification and provider of strength in trials.
- The Baháʼí representative commented on the coincidence of 29th Feb being, this year, the first day of the Nineteen-Day annual fast, during which members of the Baháʼí Faith adhere to a sunrise-to-sunset abstinence from food.
- The three youth from Centenary Methodist Church quoted Matthew 6:16-17, Jesus’ instruction that our fasting (as well as prayer and almsgiving) be always secret.
- There were a number of youth groups associated with the Fiji Muslim League. A young man spoke movingly of Ramadan being like associating ourselves with the hunger of a poor mother who deprives herself in order to feed her starving child.
- The majority Hindu group in Fiji is known as the Shri Sanatan Dharm, and their youth spoke of how devotees fast of different days according to their particular devotion, whether to Lord Shiva (on Mondays), Hanuman (Tuesdays), Durga Mata (Friday).
- Catholic youths from Sacred Heart and St Pius X parishes shared that fasting is always a matter between one’s self and God; it must always be accompanied by prayer to be effective; although ‘private’, it can sometimes be good to do it with a friend, in order to give each other strength and encouragement.
- Finally the Hare Krishna group leader spoke of how, although we take care to wash our bodies, our interior is still affected by ‘false ego’; our minds are easily contaminated, and that lust, anger and greed are like three wild animals running around in our heads.
- Fr Frank Hoare, Columban Interfaith mentor in Fiji, thanked all the youths for their both informative and heartfelt sharing. He was impressed by their honesty that, perhaps most of all, they need to fast from or reduce their use of social media, so that they can re-devote their energies to getting Fiji back to, in the words of Pope John Paul II on his 1986 visit, ‘the way the world should be’.
Fr Pat Colgan, Fiji