Prayers for justice, political prisoners, refugees, and victims of addiction, oppression, loneliness and starvation were an integral part of an ecumenical service in Palmerston North’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit last month.
Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and people from various other faiths met on common ground to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 21 March.
Bishop Peter Cullinane said the people gathered ‘not as if we all believe the same’, but so they could pray alongside each other as ‘brothers and sisters in humanity and be inspired by one another, even where we are not brothers and sisters in religious faith.
‘Tonight we pray for the needs of people everywhere especially those who suffer injustice of one kind or another.
‘I invite you to stand for a hymn in which we acknowledge God the creator of us all.’
The content of the programme then provided that they would not shy away from what each believed to be the truth. Alison Soper, from St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, read a passage from the Gospel of Luke where Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.
Anglican Rev John Franklin read a scripture that referred to heaven and hell, urging people to help the poor and feed the hungry. Muslim Shamel Majid read a prayer from the Koran, in the name of Allah as sovereign. However, the service was themed around human rights, peace and forgiveness.
The Prayer of St Francis was among the songs chosen, the Buddha’s words on loving kindness were read aloud.
Cardinal Tom Williams read a quote from Pope John Paul II, saying that forgiveness inhabits people’s hearts before it becomes a social or political reality.
When Raj Preet, from the New Zealand Sikh Society, began his prayer a row of Sikhs stood.
A few people around them also stood, to show their solidarity or respect, then about half the congregation stood as well.
Grant Miller is a reporter with the Manawatu Standard from which this account was taken.