There has been much in the news in recent months about how we get on with those of us who are different. Here in Britain the issue of immigration is currently right at the top of the political agenda and this debate is also happening in several other European countries, notably France and Germany. How do we fully include those who have made their home here and brought with them their customs and religious beliefs, many of which may be alien to ours?
Written this year by Brazilian Christians, the resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity challenged us to think about how we get on with Christians from other traditions. How can we become united in Christ?. Brazilian people experience diversity in several ways and can trace their ancestry from many parts of the world, including Europe and Africa, as well as South America. There is also an increasing diversity of Christian traditions within their country.
The Bible reading on which the prayer resources focus, is the account of Jesus going through Samaria and talking with a woman he meets at Jacob’s Well. In Bible times many Jews would not travel through Samaria in order to avoid experiencing hostility, as the Samaritan people had different customs and religious practices. Jews and Samaritans also had a history of antagonism extending over several centuries.
The conversation Jesus and the woman have at the well was remarkable for several reasons. In Bible times men and women did not talk in public, particularly if they were not related. It was remarkable, too, in that it ranged from a simple request for a drink of water, through issues to do with the woman’s private life, to profound questions about God and where to worship him.
Great Britain today is a very mixed country, with people of faith from many traditions, some not Christian, as well as many non believers.
Jesus challenges his disciples to follow him by reaching out to those who are different within the Christian family and beyond. He shows how God’s love can be a means through which differences of any sort can be bridged. This could be a message, not just for us, but for our country’s leaders, especially in a General Election Year!
With best wishes