By UPF – St. Lucia
Anse-la-Raye, St. Lucia – St Lucia is a predominantly Christian country. Ninety-nine percent of the people are Christians, and the other one percent consist of Hindus and a few Muslims. About 75 percent of the Christians are Catholic and the rest belong to several Protestant denominations. In St Lucia, there is not a conflict of religions “per se” but rather a conflict of Christian denominations which have traditionally seen each other as rivals and do not cooperate together to address the problems of the country.
On January 6, six youth representatives of four different religious denominations met together to prepare for the February session of Interfaith Harmony Week. They prepared the agenda, the program, and the organization of the meeting.
On February 6, 20 youth leaders of several denominations participated in the Interfaith Harmony Week meeting.
After a prayer by Delrita, the Catholic youth leader, Amy of the Youth on Fire Ministry read the resolution of the United Nations establishing the first week of February of every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week.
A PowerPoint presentation was then given by Mr. Remy Taupier, the Secretary General of UPF-St. Lucia. He showed the reality of religious wars in the past; i.e., the wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as places around the world with today’s religious conflicts and potential wars between religions. He spoke of the painful conflict in Israel between Jews, Christians and Muslims, three religions who have so much in common.
He spoke of the ongoing Middle East Peace Initiative of UPF and its “Pilgrimages for Peace” bringing religious, political, and academic leaders from around the world to support a shared peace between Israel and Palesine. In 2004, one “Pilgrimage for Peace” drew 500 participants from Latin America and the Caribbean. In the photos, three St Lucians could be seen among the participants, carrying the St Lucia flag and marching through the streets of Jerusalem as well as at the Western Wall and inside the famous Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Quoting passages of several sacred writings, Mr. Taupier explained that the main religions existing today uphold the same virtues and qualities: love, compassion, benevolence, patience, honesty, etc. They all aspire to a world of peace, love, and harmony. Most religions also stress that if one practices these virtues on earth, they will go to a good place in the spiritual world, after death. One important lesson to remember is that the quality of our life in the spiritual world depends not only on how well we know the religious teachings but also on how we practice them in our daily life.
After the presentation, the participants formed three discussion groups and reflected on five questions or statements
– What is a true religious person?
– What are the common qualities or values recognized by all the religions?
– When you die, what do you think will be the first question that God will ask you when you arrive at the gate of the spiritual world?
· “Parents are like a second God to their children. If you ask your young children, ‘Whom do you like better—God or Mommy and Daddy?’—and they say they like their mom and dad better; then that means they also like God. The most precious education takes place in the family.” Excerpt from the autobiography Rev. Sun Myung Moon
“Whether you are a good or an evil person is not determined by your beliefs, religious doctrines or thoughts, it is determined by your life. Whether you are destined to heaven or hell is determined by your daily life.”
After half an hour, everyone came back in plenary session and one person from each group reported on their discussions. They all reported that they enjoyed the discussion. They expressed that it was thought provoking and that it helped them to respect each other’s denominations more.
All participants remarked that the atmosphere of the meeting was very friendly and honest. Latoya commented: ”I could express myself and my opinions and it was well respected.” Mariah said: ”I feel like I can appreciate more the different religions because in truth and fact we all fight for the same things.”
It was a great opportunity for youth leaders to discuss and realize that Gandhi (a Hindu), Mother Teresa (a Catholic), Martin Luther King, Jr. (a Baptist) or all true religious persons are examples and sources of inspiration for any believer in the world regardless of his/her religion and that in this sense, they are beyond religion.
Everyone expressed their desire to see such meetings continue with opportunities to discuss together topics such marriage; husband–wife relationships; parent-child relationship; and sexual purity before marriage. They also want to do some activities together in the community.