SUVA, Fiji (Sept. 20) - Attacks on places of religious worship sicken most people in our communities. And the fact that some now feel the need to lock and guard their premises speaks volumes for the depths to which inter-religious understanding - or the lack of it - has descended.

The police view that these are for the most part crimes of opportunity - that is crimes committed more or less on the spur of the moment - and are committed purely for money rather than religious bigotry may well be an accurate one.

But the fact remains that far more Hindu temples are being desecrated than Christian churches or Muslim mosques (though the last two have been attacked also).

The fact also remains that these disgraceful attacks are perpetrated almost exclusively by indigenous Fijians many of whom quite probably attend church each Sunday.

And precisely because they are frequently crimes of opportunity, they are very difficult for the police to deal with.

And while these attacks continue, reconciliation will remain no more than a mirage.

For although the overwhelming majority of people in Fiji respect each other's rights to practice their religions unhindered it takes only a handful of criminals to spread fear, suspicion and resentment.

Christianity is a religion of love, not hate - as are Islam and Hinduism.

But perhaps the three need to do a lot more together in order to educate each other on their respective beliefs.

There are already organizations that seek to bring the faiths of the country together in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding but they need more support.

The nation's three mainstream religions are recognized more for their differences than for their common traits and attitudes. And that's something that all three need to address with a greater show of urgency than is presently visible.

In the meantime we can continue to witness the very modern phenomenon of locked temples with guards on patrol.

Desecration of religious places and artifacts strikes at the very being of believers. It shows pure contempt for the faiths of people many of whom have devoted much or all of their lives to prayer and study.

Policing is only a small (but important) part of the solution.

It's time for the major faiths to come forward hand in hand and show the nation and the world that they really can co-exist in peace and harmony.

Then we can talk about reconciliation.

September 21, 2006

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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