Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Immediate Intimacy of Religious Devotion

Religion is a faith devotion reflecting the inner spiritual need of human belief in a deity, a fathomless being of great omniscience held to be the source of all that exists, including the living creatures that worship that being, in whatever form taken. Religions and their sacred beliefs are as diverse as the ingenuity of human beings' imaginations in constructing their belief in a divine presence whom all should be grateful to and honour.

It is precisely the differences, however, that serve to create distance between one believer and another. Belief in a  higher order of supremely powerful intelligence is globally universal, and probably arose as humankind sought to make sense of the natural world and its incredibly diverse presentation; its geology, biological forms, environmental dramas of volcanic action, earthquakes, the nighttime heavens, raging storms and windswept vistas.

Unto many and diverse, and finally one supranatural force humans invested reverence and responsibility. Belief required no proof of existence, since faith accepts the presence of an omnipresent creator blessing humankind with the fruits of its labours. Again, trouble lies in the challenges inherent in human nature to consider what one group believes to be the superior relationship with that powerful being over all others.

And where once, adherents of newly-realized religious devotions were persecuted for the impudence of their belief that theirs represents the only true acknowledgement of devotion to the creator, we believe we now live in a world that is more tolerant, accepting of differences. But the fact is our human DNA is invested with certain universal traits and exclusion of the 'other' reflecting the primal blueprint of survival.

On a small but telling scale a drama is playing out in social housing, an apartment complex operated by Ottawa Community Housing where a multicultural, multi-faith building whose inhabitants have come to the conclusion that some among them are exhibiting symptoms of entitlements of an exclusive nature. All such large buildings inhabited by many people have common areas for the use of the aggregate.
Dena Ware stands beside one of the Christian pictures put up in the common room of her Ottawa Community Housing building after some Muslim women were spotted praying there. Images of Jesus cropped up after bingo and those pictures have been removed twice now. However, more crop up, she says.
Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen
In one of the buildings at the Russell Gardens community complex a cultural/social/religious dysfunction has surfaced. In the lounge of the building which is a common room for the use of all tenants, people gather to play board games, to celebrate birthdays, watch television and other group events. In the last several years residents worshipping Islam have taken to using the area for prayers.

Eliciting from other tenants who are Christian, resentment. In the words of one resident: "It's not a church". One woman who is Roman Catholic stated that Catholics make no use of the lounge as a place of worship, why then should Muslims? Another woman, in charge of the bingo games, became incensed when five Muslim men gathered tablecloths from the bingo tables to place on the floor while they prostrated themselves in prayer.

In response to her verbalized protests, one of the men called her a "terrorist". Some of the female tenants took to hanging religious prints or large hangings of the Nativity and other symbols of Christianity on the walls in hopes of deterring further use of the common room for prayers to Islam. And then the hangings began to disappear. Strangely enough a devout Roman Catholic woman had spirited them away and destroyed them.

Because, she explained, no religious symbols should hang in the building's common room. "I know I will burn in hell", she said, after admitting she had dumped the hangings in the garbage. Her action was prompted by concern that images of Jesus in a common room would convey to non-Christians they were not welcome there. Obviously, no one ever informed her that Christ has his place in Islamic theology.

Rumours began to circulate that the Muslims living in the apartment complex were members of al-Qaeda. The controversy and poor relations between the tenants raised the ire and sympathy in equal measure of the residents. At a meeting of tenants with an Ottawa Community Housing manager, tenant Dena Ware stated a policy was required to settle these disagreements.

The management of the project should either ban religious images representing any faiths whatever, in the public areas of the building: "[2100] is a multi-denomination and multicultural building", she said; images of Jesus and the cross have implications that the lounge is special to only those of Christian faiths.

In reality, the common area of the building should be off limits to any expression of religious devotion. No symbols of Christian belief should be seen in those public areas. And most certainly no one among the tenants should feel entitled to use the area as a site for prayer. Tenants who are Muslim have their own private space in their apartments where their prayer rugs can be spread. And it is there that their devotions should take place.

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