After presiding at the Japanese Catholic Community’s Sunday Eucharist February 5, 2023, I attended a celebration of World Religion Day hosted by believers of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Network on Religion and Peace and The New Mindscape. The pandemic had caused the cancellation of the celebration of the day in Hong Kong for three years. The venue was on the 22nd floor of a building overlooking the Hong Kong harbor, but the misty weather outside meant I focused most of my attention with the group gathering in the building. About 100 people of various faiths and people of no faith arrived and listened to recitations of Scriptures, devotions, music. There were quite a few young people who looked like university students attending. We moved into small group discussions to share about our feelings on how we had survived the coronavirus pandemic. The latter part of the program included a panel of faith leaders and young medical students sharing about the pandemic from their faith perspectives.
In my small group another Christian put out his hand in mutual congratulation to me when we shared that we had not yet caught the Covid virus! Much of the sharing was on the topic of how people of faith had found the inner resources from their faith to survive a difficult time. Many shared about the symptoms they had suffered when they caught the virus, and there was a sense of sympathy for those who had suffered.
The theme of the day was “Healing Our World” with the sub-title of “Spiritual Inspirations, Conversations and Actions.” The speakers were in a self-congratulatory mood that our faiths had saved us, and we had helped heal the world by recognizing that people of all faiths were in the same boat and a sense of interdependence that we had somehow come through the pandemic together.
Much of the sharing was on the topic of how people of faith had found the inner resources from their faith to survive a difficult time.
At the end of the day the Bahai host asked for final comments and after a Sikh speaker spoke, I put my hand up for the microphone and suggested that perhaps it was our lack of care for the planet and other creatures which had caused the outbreak of the pandemic. I said: “Perhaps we need to rethink our reliance on extractive industries, show more respect for Nature and realise other alternatives rather than destroying our planet. The university lecturers in the room know Science and we have to develop our dialogue between Faith and Science. Most of the faiths present have Creation stories which remind us of how our God is still alive in our planet recreating everything. Our Buddhist friends present can teach us so much about oneness with all beings. Perhaps we need to realise that we need to show more respect for our planet and all creatures. Perhaps we are not healing our world but the planet can heal us, if we allow it to do so.”
On the way out one person thanked me for my interesting comments and asked to keep in contact. I look forward to more conversations with people of other faiths. Maybe the planet can save us.
Columban Fr. Brian Vale serves on the Society’s General Council in Hong Kong.