The Holy Land at the time of Jesus’ birth was a land of many faiths. The Roman occupying powers had their religion and their gods. There was considerable Greek influence in the area Jesus knew, and that too had its own faith outlook. Judaism of the time had different strands, found in the Gospel – for example the Pharisees, and Sadducees. In addition people from distant lands, such as the magi, or wise men, of St Matthew’s Gospel had their own faith too.
As Mary and Joseph, a Jewish couple, journeyed to Bethlehem they journeyed among peoples of different faith outlooks. When Christ was born the first people to worship him, Matthew’s Gospel tells us, were the magi, exotic foreigners with (to Mary and Joseph, at least) a strange religion. Jesus himself, as an adult, was to encounter people of different faiths.
Our Posada figures visited the Hospitals’ Faith centre. They were greeted by Caroline, one of the Chaplains, who led a time of quiet and peaceful worship in the hospital Chapel. The Faith centre serves all faiths and as we prayed our Christian prayers at the other side of a wooden partition dividing the prayer area Muslim people were praying too. Our words and their words mingled together. A sign of peaceful coexistence of people of differing faiths and outlooks held together for a moment as they prayed in their differing ways.
At the centre of the prayer area a pillar has been designed as a prayer tree and its branches overarch the differing faiths’ prayer spaces. A powerful symbol of prayer and care in the hospitals, a powerful symbol of Christ among all people.
A suggestion: Pause and say a prayer for people whose faith outlook is different from your own.
A prayer of Bishop George Appleton:
O Christ my Way to the God of all salvation, People of other faiths believe they have their own salvation faith. Be with them, dear Lord, to encourage them on their way to their own Jerusalem so that we find ourselves with the spirits of the just made perfect, with the saints of every faith and age in the presence of the Eternal God, the God of many names, Creator, Lover, Saviour of us all. Amen