Thursday, November 15, 2007

More on the InterFaith Concert in DC: Sharing in our common humanity, but not trivializing our differences

Sikh Kirthani Jatha performs hymns

Still more on the recent InterFaith Concert in DC. -gw

"A Celebration of the Sacred in Song, Dance and Chant," was held at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception just up the street tonight. A friend from grad school and his wife are in one of the participating choirs (The Metropolitan Baha'i Chorale) and very graciously gave me a couple of complimentary tickets. It was well attended and quite enjoyable. ...

I have to say, and I'm not being partisan, that the St. Francis of Assisi choir kicked butt! They gave a stunning performance of Palestrina's Sicut Cervus and another absolutely mystical rendition of a modern arrangement for Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence (which is a prayer from the ancient Liturgy of St. James). [And why is it that when we're representing the rich Catholic musical heritage in an inter-faith event we'll trot out this kind of beautiful stuff that one is quite unlikely to hear in ordinary Catholic worship around the country?] doesn't have to go too far below the surface to witness some tensions: for instance, one of the pieces performed by the Baha'i chorus was a hymn composed to strengthen Baha'is facing persecution after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. And, though the adhan performed by Native Deen was quite lovely, I must say, it was a bit startling to hear that Islamic call to prayer, proclaiming the greatness of Allah, and of his Prophet, resound through this beautiful Byzantine basilica.

Don't get me wrong: such initiatives are good and nothing unites people like lifting voices together in praise. And yes, there is the danger of simply adopting the relativism of the larger culture. However, people of different faiths coming together, not ignoring or trivializing our differences, but sharing in our common humanity, especially in our common humanity as religious creatures: now that's something to celebrate.
{Re-posted with permission}

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