As a de-facto atheist people often assume that I might be troubled by being asked to attend or even take part in religious events. This is rarely the case and indeed I often find the opposite to be true.
Today I attended a joint prayer meeting for palliative care practitioners from across Uganda who wanted to pray for the palliative care resolution that is currently going through the World Health Assembly. At the meeting I was asked as a representative of my work to read out a short prayer asking God to offer the decision makers wisdom and compassion.
Not only did I not mind this but in fact I found the whole event a real pleasure to attend. Let me explain why.
To start there was a wonderful feeling of unity at the meeting. This sense of ‘unity’ is what I chose to highlight when I wrote it up for ehospice news. It was also what I tried to capture in some of my photographs.
*Click to enlarge*
It was wonderful to watch how different organisations came together in a moment to share a common aim – the furthering of palliative care. It also got me thinking about the potential that faith has to break down hierarchy.
Uganda is incredibly hierarchical as a culture but in this short meeting the focus on the presumed ultimate leader (‘god’) broke down the created hierarchy.
It was both interesting and inspiring to watch.
So even being a hardened (and let’s be honest, argumentative) ‘de facto atheist’ I have to admit to finding this event not only a pleasure to attend but also pragmatically useful.
It brought people together in a powerful and profound way.
In my work, often with NGOs, I often stumble across stupid and badly thought out ideas. Some of them stem from a religious perspective but many don’t.
For as long as a religious meeting or belief system passes J.S Mill’s principle of harm test I cannot see any reason not to let people get on with it. And, in cases like today’s meeting, I cannot see any reason not to positively celebrate it.
Today’s prayer meeting not only passed J.S Mill’s ‘harm principle’ test with considerable ease, but it also I felt contributed something quite profound to the common good – a chance for colleagues and strangers to come together on an equal footing and to focus on what they have in common opposed to their differences.