Tuesday, 27 November 2012

well, i didn't see that coming...

an update on the on-going saga of myself, mr cox & the waikato times: mr cox has apologised in a piece published in today's paper.  this is quite unexpected, given that he usually has his column published in saturday's paper, and given that i have never asked for an apology in my formal complaint or in my subsequent dealings with the editor.

it may be that others who lodged a complaint did ask for an apology.  but i'd like to think that this was an uncoerced apology, genuinely given, and that mr cox has gained something from this whole experience.  and until i see any evidence to the contrary, that is what i'm going to believe.

there has, in the past week, been the expected backlash in the letters to the editors section of the paper in response to my piece.  four letters in all, 2 in last saturday's paper, and all of them really quite nasty.  i'd thought about replying, but decided i wouldn't bother.  i have sent off a letter to the editor today though, thanking mr cox for his apology & writing about some of the experiences i've had of late, through my involvement with the waikato interfaith council (wifco).

i've been meaning to write about some of these, but things have been pretty hectic over the last few weeks.  i'll share a couple though.

on saturday, i was invited to an ordination at st peter's cathedral, on top of the hill at the north end of victoria st in hamilton.  it's the first time i've been to an ordination, and i'd actually been looking forward to it for a while.  partly because of my fond affection for the person becoming a priest, but also just to have the experience of being present at such an event.

it was quite lovely.  i enjoyed watching it all, though i didn't feel part of it as such.  i got up and sat down again at the appropriate times, but i didn't sing and i didn't give any of the responses, nor take part in the wafer & wine thing (obviously!).  and i thought it was quite ironic in a funny kind of way that i was sitting next to a committed atheist for the whole thing.  it just seemed to add another dimension of diversity to the whole experience.

there were 9 people going through the process on the day, 5 to become deacons & 4 were becoming priests.  of the priests, there was a nice gender balance of 2 men & 2 women; with the deacons there were 3 women & 2 men.  i found this interesting in light of the whole controversy going on in the anglican church at the moment in regards to women being allowed to become bishops.  it just seems that the vote went so much against what is actually happening on the ground, but given the requirement of a 2/3 majority at 3 levels, i guess it's not an easy hurdle for them to pass.

so now i have that to add to my list of life experiences.  another experience that is precious to me is the invitation the wifco received from tainui, to take part in a blessing of wairere drive.  this is a new section of road that has recently opened in hamilton.  the official opening was on a saturday, but we were invited on friday evening, around 6pm, to take part in the tainui blessing and to say a prayer of our own.  i recited the prayer for travelling, as the muslim offering, then put the paper i'd written it out on into a kete that was buried next to the road the following morning. there were other contributions from the baha'i, the quakers, anglicans, catholic and jews.  we had a little bit of sprinkling of holy water even.

i loved that there was recognition by wifco members of the loss of land and devastation caused by colonisation.  i loved the welcoming we received from tainui, and the explanation that was given for the naming of the road as "wairere".  it was a very special experience, a moment of real bonding between a diverse group of people, and we all went home feeling incredibly uplifted.

the reason i mentioned these events in my letter and now here on the blog is because it is exactly this kind of thing that builds communities and strong societies.  it's so very hard to hate people belonging to a particular group when you've shared experiences like this together.  it's such a powerful way to humanise the "other", and makes it so much harder to hold a whole group of people in contempt.

if only some of those angry letter writers had been able to have some of these experiences, had been able to enter a world outside of their own, perhaps the words would not have flowed so easily when they wrote into the paper.  but i suspect that they would resist any such experience, and feel completely threatened in an environment where their own supremacy was not sacrosanct.

well, we can only try.  this week in hamilton will hold the indigo festival.  as part of that will be the indigo interfaith seminars, on friday & saturday from 12 to 1pm at the hamilton library.  the festival as a whole is an attempt to celebrate diversity in the city, and i hope, if you're a hamiltonian, that you'll try to get to at least some of the events.

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