Columban Interfaith Events in Fiji

Priscilla Magdalin, the Interreligious Dialogue (IRD) Coordinator at the Columban Mission Office in Suva, Fiji, reports on recent events promoting the interfaith apostolate.

The Suva Women’s Interfaith Group Organising Committee. Photo: Columban IRD Fiji

The Suva Women’s Interfaith Group Organising Committee. Photo: Columban IRD Fiji

Throughout late 2023 and into 2024, Priscilla Magdalin, the Columban IRD Coordinator in Suva, was busy hosting and attending several events that promote interreligious dialogue among the communities in Suva. Here are some of the highlights.

The Suva Women’s Interfaith Group

To celebrate the Season of Creation in September 2023, the Suva Women’s Interfaith Group, which include members from the Christian, Muslim, and Hindu faiths, came together to raise awareness, strengthen ties, and share about their faiths with each other around the theme of “Sowing the Seeds of Faith”. They also exchanged seedlings and plants as a fun activity to acknowledge the Season.  Columban Regional Director of Oceania, Fr Peter O’Neill, who was visiting Suva at the time, was able to join in as a special guest.

In October, the Suva Women’s Interfaith Group visited a local school for children with vision impairment and blindness. The aim of the visit was to help students understand the power of empathy and empowerment in society and that they are special for living their lives beautifully. The women’s group took along cooked food and groceries to share with the children. The children welcomed the women with kind words, sang beautiful songs, and read braille. They also organised a surprise program on subjects they learn daily and presented it to the women.

Interfaith Peace Prayers for Palestine and Israel

Late last year, the Columban IRD Coordinator, Priscilla Magdalin, organised a Peace and Harmony Prayer Service for the Hamas-Israel conflict at the Latter-Day Saints Hall in Suva. More than 13 different faith groups representing the Christian, Muslim, and Hindu faiths, and organisations such as Corpus Christi and Fiji National University, sat together in a circle to attend to prayers and scripture readings for peace, unity, comfort, mercy, kindness, justice, hope, and understanding and respect. Together, they opened their hearts to the Creator, stood together in solidarity, and held the victims in their prayers.

Prayer Breakfast Show

The Fiji Parliament has established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help remove the divisions between ethnic communities and to promote harmony and lasting peace. IRD Coordinator Priscilla Magdalin was privileged to be part of the Truth and Reconciliation Prayer Breakfast organised by the Fiji Council of Churches in recognition of the Commission. Religious leaders from various faiths shared prayers and scripture texts in different languages to journey towards true unity and a better Fiji for future generations.

Celebrating Diwali

In November, the Hare Krishna, in partnership with the Columban IRD Coordinator, invited members from various faiths to join and celebrate Diwali at the Hare Krisna Hall. Diwali is a celebration the victory of truth over falsehood, light over darkness, and good over evil. It is one of the most important Hindu feast days, celebrated with lanterns, fireworks, prayers, and large family meals. It is also a time when our Indian neighbours, friends, and even strangers open their hearts and share the delightful Indian sweets during this festive occasion.

Catholic Youth Group Mosque Visit

Columban Fr Pat Colgan from Raiwaqa Parish, Columban staff Nanise Mounga and Priscilla Magdalin,  and Jay Malaga (Focolare Movement) accompanied the parish’s young people to evening prayers at Masjid Al Haqq Mosque in Suva in October 2023. The two Maulvis welcomed and greeted the visiting group. The Maulvis explained their practices and beliefs, religious symbols, daily prayers, and generously answered our questions regarding their practices and beliefs. They explained they try to be filled with humility and gratitude. A small step such as visiting the mosque can create good relationship, connections and understanding that help to build peace among the Christian and Muslim religions.

Invitation to the Celebration of 100th Year Sikh Gurudwara

On 12th November, the Gurudwara Sahib invited members from different religions to celebrate its 100th year in Fiji. This is regarded as the first Gurudwara in the Southern Hemisphere and the fifth Gurudwara built outside of India. With respect, we covered our heads with scarves and joined in prayers and devotional songs (bhajans) at the beautiful, decorated temple. The important message shared was equality of all people, regardless of their caste, religion, or gender, that everyone is created by God’s will and therefore we must be treated equally and with respect. It was a successful event with an amazing sense of friendliness.

Conclusion

As you can see, the Columbans are part of many interreligious activities, responding to the religious and cultural diversity of Suva. There is much more to be done to strengthen ties and enable a robust and resilient multi-religious, multi-cultural society.  

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

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