Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Commentary on Newspaper articles

Hands off Christmas, say British religious leaders
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims joined Britain's equality watchdog on Monday in urging Britons to enjoy Christmas without worrying about offending non-Christians.
"It's time to stop being daft about Christmas. It's fine to celebrate and it's fine for Christ to be star of the show," said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
"Let's stop being silly about a Christian Christmas," he said, referring to a tendency to play down the traditional celebrations of the birth of Christ for fear of offending minorities in multicultural Britain.
Suicide bombings by British Islamists in July 2005 which killed 52 people in London have prompted much soul-searching about religion and integration in Britain, a debate that has been echoed across Europe.
The threat of radical Islam, highlighted by the London attacks, prompted reflection about Britain's attitude to ethnic minorities and debate about whether closer integration was more important than promoting multiculturalism.
Phillips, reflecting on media reports of schools scrapping nativity plays and local councils celebrating "Winterval" instead of Christmas, feared there might an underlying agenda -- using "this great holiday to fuel community tension."
So he joined forces with leaders of minority faiths to put out a blunt message to the politically correct -- Leave Christmas alone.
"Hindus celebrate Christmas too. It's a great holiday for everyone living in Britain," said Anil Bhanot, general secretary of the UK Hindu Council.
Sikh spokesman Indarjit Singh said: "Every year I am asked 'Do I object to the celebration of Christmas?' It's an absurd question. As ever, my family and I will send out our Christmas cards to our Christian friends and others."
Their sentiments were echoed by British Muslim leaders, who were also forthright last week in condemning Sudan for jailing a British teacher for letting her pupils name a teddy bear Mohammad.
Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Shayk Ibrahim Mogra said "To suggest celebrating Christmas and having decorations offends Muslims is absurd. Why can't we have more nativity scenes in Britain?"
Lately in the paper, I have been seeing things about Christmas echoing the sentiments as seen above. There was an incident with a Santa in Austrailia who was supposed fired because he refused to say "ha ha ha" instead of "ho ho ho". The Ho Ho Ho was considered offensive as "ho" is derogatory towards women. "Merry Christmas" is considered offensive to those who are not Christians or who do not celebrate this tradition. I remember when the expression was changed. or rather people were banned/advised against using the term "Merry Christmas" but were encouraged to attend "Holiday concerts" instead of "Christmas concerts", to have "holiday trees", etc.
I am a Christian minister working in a multifaith context. Part of our work is to have dialogue with our patients/clients, etc. We are not here to "preach at them" but rather we are to engage people in dialogue about their faith, their spiritual life and what it is that brings them hope, meaning and to encourage them to use these as resources in times of crisis. Spiritual care is about dialogue not about evangelism. Unfortunately, a lot of people have had bad experiences or bad education and hence my role is often misunderstood. A key aspect to dialogue is respect. Respect for the other person's views in light of their personal experience and their view of the world. So this is my goal to maintain respect and encourage growth of their spiritual life. This should be the goal of everyone in society -- Respect -- however not everyone understands this term in the same way. And so we get incidents and comments like the newspaper articles.


Marshall said...

"Unfortunately, a lot of people have had bad experiences or bad education and hence my role is often misunderstood." Indeed, and so I often say that, if our congregational colleagues want to say that they're in "Sales," we're in "Maintenance." We sometimes have opportunities to help people repair those bad experiences, and perhaps to form new relationships and new community connections for spiritual support.

By the way, my friend: the red typeface for the article quoted doesn't allow enough contrast to show up on my screen. I was able to get to it, but it was hard to read.

ReverendKathryn said...

Yes thanks. Have fixed that issue re: font color..

I have always thought that pastoral care/spiritual care is about "maintenance". I've never been one for outreach/evangelism, or "sales". Unfortunately, not everyone agrees that this is necessary for the spiritual health of a body.