These days, politicians globally are becoming more and more offensive about their opponents. Some even tell lies. And it’s not confined to politicians – all of us could improve our interactions with others.
Uncivil behaviour matters because it undermines democracy, incites people to violence, deepens divisions in society, and has other harmful effects.
You can help to resist this by coming along to hear insights from the three Abrahamic faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – and perspectives from Tangata Whenua about how we conduct public discussions.
It promises to be a lively evening full of insights and good manners. Just what you’d expect of a civilised city like Wellington.
The following reflection on Patience was given by Abrahamic Council member David Blocksidge at our meeting on 15 October 2020.
Islam teaches us that we should, ideally, only ever be in one of two states of mind.
Most of the time we should be in a state of shukr – gratitude in English. It’s pretty clear to anyone of faith that we should show gratitude for God’s many blessings. So far so good.
The difficulty – for me at least – comes with the second state. When we are facing difficulties, we are told we ought to display sabr, or patience.
I mention it now, with Covid-19 still among us, work uncertainties, health issues and various other problems we may be facing.
Sabr is clearly a very important concept for Allah. The word occurs in the Qur’an about 90 times, most memorably in Surah Al-Asr, chapter 103, in which the final line says: “Wa tawaasaw bis sabr” – “and recommend one another to patience.”
It’s one of the shorter chapters in the Qur’an so I learned it early on to be able to recite when I lead prayers. However, it has often troubled me because I felt inadequate; I’m not the most patient of people, so I felt a little guilty reciting this particular line and not being able to live up to it.
But there is hope for me and I will explain why. I have learned that, as a translation, the word patience really does not do the word sabr justice. It’s yet another example of an English translation butchering and diluting the richness and depth of the Arabic.
Other meanings of the word include to stop, detain, refrain and withhold.
But the root of the word sabr is the most interesting aspect. It is derived from the Aloe plant known to Arabs as sabbar, 300 species of which grow natively in the desert.
What the aloe plant is known for, other than its healing qualities, is its ability to sustain drought and heat in the harsh climate of the desert. It withstands harsh conditions to force its way to grow tall and strong and needs very little maintenance and watering.
It has an abundance of beneficial functions. It can cool burns, help with allergies, condition hair, protect skin and detoxify the body. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties and can heal wounds, stimulate cell regeneration and be used as toothpaste or mouthwash. It can even promote blood circulation and lower cholestorol when drunk as a juice.
With the aloe plant in mind, the word sabr translates more accurately as perseverance – a dogged will to survive and thrive and achieve its purpose no matter how bad the conditions around it are.
Patience, withholding, refraining etc are all passive, whereas perseverance is positive. Exactly how we Muslims – indeed, all human beings – should be. Always positive, always active, and always persevering no matter the situation, so we can achieve our purpose and give benefit to others around us.
As impatient as I can be, at times I am capable of great perseverance. Thank you for your patience.
David Blocksidge is a Muslim member of the Wellington Abrahamic Council.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter, we need to talk about racism. Each of the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – has a chequered history of how we treat “the other”, and all three religions have also been on the receiving end of hatred.
But what do our prophets, our history, our traditions, and our lived experience in the contemporary world tell us about racism in the twenty-first century?
Jews, Christians, and Muslims will be falling silent for 51 seconds at 1:40pm on 15 April to remember the Christchurch mosque attacks of 2019. National and local commemorations for the attacks were cancelled last month due to COVID-19, and this is a chance for people to remember the attacks in their own way.
“With the whole country in lockdown, it’s more important now than ever to act together, and pause briefly in silence to think about how we can make our society more inclusive,” says Dave Moskovitz, the Jewish Co-Chair of the Wellington Abrahamic Council of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. “We’re asking people in each household to take less than a minute out of their day on 15 April to think: what can I do, what can our community do, and what can New Zealand do to stop hatred in our thoughts, words, and actions?”
Christian Co-chair Father Ron Bennett adds, “We’re a month late for the 15 March anniversary. It’s sad that commemorations were cancelled last month, but we couldn’t let this important event in New Zealand history go unmarked. We’re asking people to take 51 seconds – that’s one second for each life lost in the attacks – to build a more compassionate society. COVID-19 might slow us down, but it can’t stop us. Better late than never.”
Islamic Women’s Council of NZ Coordinator Anjum Rahman says that it is not Muslim practice to commemorate the deaths of specific people as death is a transition from one stage of life to another. “These attacks had a strong impact on our wider society. Many of us feel less safe now than we did before the attacks, and every person in our country has the basic human right to not fear for their lives, no matter what their religious beliefs are, nor how they might identify as a person. Celebrating difference and valuing others is the best way to counter hate.”
So on 15 April, take 51 seconds to remember the Christchurch mosque shootings, and join Jews, Christains, and Muslims around the country to think about how we’ve changed, and what we can do to make our society more inclusive. Please share this, and invite your friends to our Facebook Event.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: This meeting will now be held as an online meeting; see instructions below for how to join.
Public Meeting – Lessons from the Life of Abraham
Wednesday 25 March 2020, 7pm
Due to the current COVID-19 situation, this meeting will be held electronically on Zoom. To join the meeting, point your browser at this link: https://zoom.us/j/127048527
If you’ve never used Zoom before, you might like to watch this tutorial which shows you how to join a Zoom meeting.
Please join us for this interactive meeting. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and engage in discussion at the end of the presentations by the speakers.
Rabbi Ariel Tal
Abraham is the common ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – we call them the three Abrahamic religions.
The story of Abraham’s life is recounted and
interpreted in different ways in each of these three religions, and each
religion carries interesting lessons for all of our religions. Although rooted
in antiquity, many of these lessons have great relevance to our lives in
Come join us as we learn from different perspectives from each other about the person we regard as the founder of our three great religions.
What: Wellington Peacenic Where: Te Ngākau / Wellington Civic Square When: Sunday 23 February 2020, 11:45am – 3:00pm
Join us for the first Wellington Peacenic, a picnic for peace!
Peacenic began in Auckland in 2016. It grew out of a desire to replace the polarising bad-news stories that dominate the media with real experiences of hospitality and friendship in our own backyard. The simplest gift of sharing time and food together is rewarding in itself but goes beyond that to offer a glimpse of the world as it could be. In our increasingly multi-religious, multi-ethnic community, we want to help build bridges across the divisions that have historically separated Muslims, Jews and Christians.
Rick The Clown will perform at midday.
Bring a picnic blanket to sit on and food to share but be sensitive about other faiths’ dietary requirements – ask if you are not sure.
Parking charges usually apply in the city so consider car pooling or using public transport.
You can help publicise our event by printing out and posting our event flyer. Thanks!
When: Thursday 31 October 2019 4-9pm Where: Wellington Islamic Centre, 7 Queen’s Drive, Kilbirnie
Tickets are mandatory for this event. You can purchase tickets on Eventbrite.
Religious Diversity: Encountering other religions
The Religious Diversity and Anti-discrimination workshop is designed to facilitate safe and productive interreligious encounters between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim young adults (18-35).
Workshop Participants will:
Share experiences of religion, ethnicity and culture within a safe environment
Explore the meaning, impact and issues of religious diversity in Aotearoa New Zealand
Address local manifestations of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination related to religion
Develop skills for creating inclusive intercultural environments.
The workshop will be highly interactive, fun, and challenging. It will be led by two facilitators trained and accredited by the internationally acclaimed Belieforama Programme. It is provided by the Religious Diversity Centre of Aotearoa / New Zealand in conjunction with the Wellington Abrahamic Council.
Please help us by promoting this event to young adults in your synagogue, church, or mosque.
We are pleased that Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye will be in Wellington as part of their New Zealand tour, and will tell us about their experience in coming together to understand each other and each others’ religions.
Special thanks to the Initiatives of Change for making the tour and this event possible.