Friday, 28 October 2016

Jerusalem, Halloween and Traditions

BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Friday 28th October 2016
Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam
University College Cork, Ireland

Israeli archaeologists have discovered an ancient wine ledger papyrus, said to be over 2,700 years old, they believe contains the earliest written reference to Jerusalem outside the Bible.  This announcement came just as UNESCO, the UN’s cultural organisation, adopted a second resolution in a week that Israel said denied Judaism's ties to some of Jerusalem’s holiest places. 

Reading about the archealogical discovery took me back to my masters degree on Jerusalem studies.  Jerusalem is clearly linked to the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  I was often quite confused by conflicting views from various academics who would raise one religious tradition’s connection and dismiss the other.  Yet this ancient wine ledger adds another layer to the traditions of Jerusalem outside of the three faiths as we know them.  It makes me wonder about the way in which traditions, be they religious or otherwise, are layered upon previous traditions or customs.   

Halloween is a perfect example.  Some would say it is purely a Celtic harvest festival with Pagan roots whilst others claim it solely as a Christian festival. 

There are more positive examples of shared sacred spaces.  Back in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a place connected to traditions of Jesus’s crucifiction is shared by at least six different denominations and if that wasn’t enough sharing – the keys of the Church are held by two Muslim families who have been known to keep the peace between the different Christian denominations.   
I see these overlaps as a positive. That living out may come from following different traditions but are we not all connected to each other? Diverging paths from the same source offer colours and diversity to what makes up the world we live in.  No matter how we try and separate our claims to traditions or sacred spaces, the challenge is to appreciate these differences and to share them peacefully.