Saturday, 16 April 2011

Fasting and feasting

Each day the Leicester Mercury publishes a pair of brief quotations from sacred or inspirational texts as its Thoughts for the Day. These appear below its Opinion column. The first of these is always from the Bible (either Old or New Testament), the second from another source, frequently one associated with a member community of Leicester Council of Faiths. Today’s quotation is from a Bahá’í text, an extract from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh: “Verily, I say, fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion.”

Now, I don’t know if anyone actually reads these. I do regularly – more often from a sense of obligation than anything else. While they’re usually innocuous, Today’s has left me with an uneasy feeling. Which of our religious communities are fasting now? The Bahá’ís certainly aren’t (the annual 19-day long Baha’i fast ended at sunset on 20 March).

Just a few pages further on in today’s paper, there’s an article about Vaisakhi, illustrated with a picture of two Sikh gentlemen preparing some of the free food that will be on offer to those participating in the parade through Leicester city centre. There’s also a positive piece about an international food and drink fair coming to the city – and, for that matter, there’s one of the regular continental markets going on in the city centre this week.

So where’s the value in a quotation from any religious source about fasting today? It could easily be read to make the Bahá’ís appear mean-spirited killjoys, ascetic even – and they’re neither of those. I’m sure that the appearance of this quotation today is a coincidence. A similar quotation from the Bahá’í writings appeared during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which I remarked upon as a positive coincidence – a piece of serendipity even, with a quotation from one of our faith communities (and the smallest of them, at that) backing up the practice at that time of another (the largest). This one has the opposite effect; although I may be the only person noticing it or commenting on it.

Still, it does show the lack of thought or planning behind the selection and publication  of these texts – and for many Leicester people, they may be virtually the sole exposure to these different faiths. It would be better if it were done with just a little more thought – and an eye on the calendar.

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