Asian faiths take centre stage at interfaith event

Interfaith event Fiji

Images from the event. Photo: Priscilla Magdalin

In a recent interfaith event hosted by the Inter-Religious Dialogue Columban Mission Office in Fiji, an audience of mostly Catholic, Methodist, Hindu and Sikh faiths were treated to song and dance as practised by the Hindu and Sikh faiths.

It began with members of the Hindu group Shri Sanatan, who shared the girmit experience in Fiji. The term “girmit” is derived from the word “agreement” and was used to refer to the system of indentured labour that brought Indians to Fiji between 1879 and 1916. Niranjan Kaur sang a folk song in Hindi, which reflected the pain and sorrow of the Girmitya grandmothers’ journey. The singer’s son, Daljit, explained the meaning of the song in English.

Next, the members of the Indian Hindu group Arya Samaj shared a sacred purification ritual, called Havan. It’s important to all vedic religious ceremonies. In Arya Samaj schools, Havan is performed daily to purify the environment. The members demonstrated parts of the Havan and sang a spiritual song as a mantra.

Following the Hindu performances was a Sikh faith group, who sung a devotional song known as Bhajan. The song was about selfless service to others, which they call Sewa, a value of great importance to Sikhs. The were accompanied by Indian musical instruments. They explained that Sewa is commonly performed physically, mentally, and materially in their house of worship, the Gurdwara. The group leader explained how their faith develops virtues of truth, compassion, patience, humility, self-control, and love.

The Hare Krishna faith group recited the Maha mantra, which is a sacred Sanskrit verse. The group leader explained its meaning to cultivate awareness of a higher power and to revive God’s realisation. The mantra was sung in four lines composed of the names of Hindu deities and their energies. Hare refers to the energy of Lord Vishnu. Krishna and Rama are the names of two avatars of Lord Vishnu. It was also explained in simple form as, “Oh Lord, oh energy of the Lord, please engage me in your service.” Traditionally this chanting is a spiritual practice that deepens concentration and devotion.

Following the singing were two dance groups. Wearing traditional costume, veils and anklets with bells, they performed Indian classic dances, such as the Bharatanatyam. Through flowing movement, they expressed love and care for Mother Earth.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed the performances and said they had learned new things. The event concluded with a vote of thanks and a vegetarian meal shared by both the audience members and the performers.

Priscilla Magdalin is the coordinator of the Interreligious Dialogue Columban Mission Office in Suva, Fiji.

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