February – Inter-faith
Alex says, “When I first came here, I didn’t know that the Internet is your father, your mother, sister and everything. TV and the Internet are the only neighbours you have in this country. If you ask these people, ‘Excuse me, where is … ?’ They say ‘Google Maps! Internet!’”
Alex is persistent. He knocks three times and when his neighbour finally opens the door, he’s furious.
“Yes, what you want?”
“I’m your new neighbour, next-door neighbour … new … from Africa.”
“Yes, what you want?”
“I’m your new neighbour”. (Thinking: “Isn’t that enough reason to knock on your door?”)
“But what you want?”
“I want to say hello.”
“Yes, say it.”
I learned about Alex from the Internet.*
Others discover their neighbours through watching TV.
The Dutch television program ‘Achter de Voordeur’ (Behind the Front Door) is a worldwide success story and we now have an Australian version. People who live in the same neighbourhood are shown a picture of their neighbour and then given the key to their house to check it out. They speculate about their neighbour’s life and later watch a short film about it. Meanwhile, the neighbour sees and hears the speculations via closed circuit TV. Finally the neighbours meet each other and realise that many prejudices and assumptions have been dissolved.
“They may discover that the woman with the headscarf is, in fact, an ambitious young woman who fledAfghanistanat the age of 11 and is now a fourth year medical student,” says the SBS promo material for the show. “Or that their next door neighbour is fighting a life-threatening disease.”
Interfaith dialogue is motivated by “love [for] thy neighbour”, based on respect for other faiths and aims for mutual understanding.
The Uniting Church is encouraging members to involve themselves in more deliberate interfaith activity at the grassroots level.
The church’s national Assembly has developed Interfaith September which, at its heart, desires to create a community of hospitality, conversation and friendship with people of all faiths throughout their neighbourhood.
There are worship resources and a toolbox to help congregations with ideas for building connections.
Interfaith September culminates with Interfaith Community Sunday. “On this day, neighbours become friends and a deepened understanding of each other blossoms.”
So, let’s ditch the Internet and TV and love our neighbours. Get past the perfunctory “hello” and see how people of all faiths can work together to build harmony in our communities and peace in our world.
Let’s do it before September … and in September … and beyond it.
Don’t wait for Alex to knock. Open your door wide.
Invite your neighbour in.
*www.rnw.nl/africa/article/africans-going-dutch-part-five-dutch-neighbour article by Ayobami Ojebode.