Author: Alia Hogben
Source: Whig Column
This is not to ask anyone to be “politically correct” or to give up on their own beliefs and practices.
It is simply to extend a warm welcome by the sharing in each other’s celebrations, especially at this time of the year.
It is the time of year when we are faced with darkness and with the end of the year’s dying days. We are surrounded by dry, brown leafless trees and plants, the sludge of grubby snow, and lack of sun and light. All this reminds us of the fragility of life and gives us pause for introspection. It is the time to reflect on the past and wonder what lies ahead.
Imagine how very dark it must have been in ages past with no artificial sources of light and what fears this must have raised. Aeons ago, people believed that if they assuaged the gods they will dispel the darkness and let the days slowly lengthen.
How appropriate that celebrations such as the winter solstice, Hanukkah and Diwali are all festivals of lights. We have the light of the menorah for eight days, the Diwali lights to show the victory of light over darkness and the joy of good overcoming evil.
Isn’t it interesting that Christians appreciated the celebration of light over darkness and included the birth of Jesus Christ during this period? They see it as a joyous occasion about the darkness before the coming of his presence as the light.
It is such a pity that instead of reaching out to others, we turn aside and don’t join together to celebrate each other’s festivals. Why can’t we share instead of setting up demarcations around our specific holidays as only ours? Surely, this does not eradicate differences nor does it make us appreciate our commonality as humans?
When I was growing up in Burma and India, my family joyously joined the celebrations of our Buddhist and Hindu friends, and in turn they came to our home with sweets for our Eid. It was a coming together of friends and neighbours and only good and affection were in our hearts, not hatred or emphasis on our differences.
I appeal to all, but particularly to those Muslims who want us to withhold ourselves from any celebration of others’ festivals. Do greet your Christian neighbour with a “Merry Christmas” and I can assure you that you will feel a warm glow and she will be pleased.
Some Muslims tell us to keep ourselves separated almost as if to keep us untainted by other religions. Surely our faith is strong enough that we can reach out without assuming that somehow we will be weakened in our beliefs?
We will not be less Muslim if we tell our children that they must visit their Christian friends, give them gifts and perhaps even sing a carol with them. How far will these small but significant gestures take us towards tolerance and love for each other rather than always pointing out our differences?
As a believing Muslim, I am saddened that at schools our grandchildren are not allowed to sing Christmas carols because we may offend some people. I would like more sharing and less the omission of any songs of joy. Why can’t we have children learn songs from all our diverse religions?
All this talk of “Canadian values” can be a sly ploy to divide us, but I think this rejoicing together can demonstrate our value of sharing.
I wish all children can come together to sing carols, light candles in the menorah, and celebrate Eid with sweets prepared by parents.
Religious diversity is fine but what about more emphasis on our shared values and compassion for each other?
As the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said, “We just don’t tolerate each other’s differences, we embrace them.”
Shall we all sing one of my favourite hymns? “Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light, like a little candle burning in the night. In the world of darkness, we must shine, you in your small corner and I in mine.”
As Rumi, the Muslim mystic said, “There are lots of ways to reach God, I chose love.”
Happy Diwali, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and a peaceful 2017 to all!