Faiths, hopes and charity;Religious Education

14th May 1999 at 01:00
What does the millennium mean to you? Lat Blaylock asks people from a range of religious and ethical backgrounds, and explains how their answers can be used to help clear up pupils' thinking.

Getting a handle on the millennium is tricky for schools. No one seems sure if this is supposed to be a national event, a religious celebration or an enormous, rolling, global booze-up. Part of the population already seems to believe the Dome is a joke and the millennium a flop. Key words are more likely to be Mandelson and McDonald's than Jesus or Justice.

Teachers will want to make an educational opportunity out of the razzmatazz. The Professional Council for Religious Education asked four people - a Christian, a humanist, a Muslim and a Jew - to consider six questions about the millennium which could be used for some educational thinking on the topic of time passing.

Pupils might use the questions as a basis for their own thinking, or they might go out and ask some adults from a variety of religions and viewpoints to talk about the millennium. This could be a focus for whole-school display, community involvement and some real and reflective learning.

* Reverend Anne Hibbert is a Christian. She works for the Churches Millennium Executive.

Will you be celebrating the millennium? Why?

I will be celebrating: It's a momentous time in human history.

What significance (if any) do you see in the year 2000? Since AD 663, Britain has committed itself to measuring time in relation to the symbolic birth date of Jesus Christ. I believe the millennium finds its true meaning in Jesus Christ.

What do your beliefs say about the passage of the years?

History doesn't begin with some cosmic accident. The millions of years of life's development resonate with God's divine purpose. The turning point is Jesus, so the millennium is a point at which I can pledge myself to renewal of God's kingdom.

What do your beliefs say about how to celebrate a new year? How do you usually celebrate?

There's a hymn which thanks God: "Lord for the years your love has kept and guided, urged and inspired us, cheered us on our way." There is a great deal of thanksgiving for what God has done, and prayers for help in the new year.

What hopes would you most like to see fulfilled in the new century?

For people everywhere to know that Jesus came so that "we may have life, and have it in abundance". The restoration of marriage and family life. Love, joy and peace - God's original intention for the world.

What would you like to see the human race leave behind for the next millennium?

I'd love to see an end to poverty, hatred and war.

* Robert Ashby is a humanist. He is director of the British Humanist Association

Will you be celebrating the millennium? Why?

I'll be celebrating on December 31, a special New Year's Eve. I can safely predict that I'll start the new millennium with a hangover, like millions of others, and resolve never to do it again.

What significance (if any) do you see in the year 2000?

It's a cue for a new start, where our shared humanity counts for more than all the political and religious divisions of the past.

What do your beliefs say about the passage of the years?

We celebrate anniversaries. But we recognise that dates and calendars are a human invention and have no ultimate significance. The passing years do bring greater responsibility for humans - the future of the planet rests in our hands.

What do your beliefs say about how to celebrate a new year? How do you usually celebrate?

There are no set rules on how we should celebrate. Most people will want to be with family or friends, or at a party. Some people will treat it as a normal evening. Many humanists get involved in helping lonely or depressed people over the holidays.

What hopes would you most like to see fulfilled in the new century?

Humans are still obsessed with power, money and territory. I hope peace and diplomacy will help us to avoid wars, and that the new god of money will cease to be so powerful.

What would you like to see the human race leave behind for the next millennium?

To make sure the planet is respected by governments and companies. Developed nations need to think about how to help people in other parts of the world.

* Dr Musharaf Hussain is a Muslim. He is director ofthe Karimia Institute in Nottingham.

Will you be celebrating the millennium? Why?

I'll join my country folks, the Brits, in the millennium celebrations, not as a religious duty but a civic duty. I'll share the pleasure, and show that as a Muslim I'm also a member of this society.

What significance (if any) do you see in the year 2000?

The start of any year is a time to review the past and look forward. The millennium is a grander way of reflecting on achievements and failures as well as planning for the coming century.

What do your beliefs say about the passage of the years?

Time is precious. It's a divine gift, to be valued, guarded and spent wisely. The glorious Qur'an says: "By time, man is in loss except him who has faith, does righteous deeds, exhorts the truth and patience."

What do your beliefs say about how to celebrate a new year? How do you usually celebrate?

There is no legal format in Islam. I'll celebrate with thanksgiving, contemplation, and resolutions.

What hopes would you most like to see fulfilled in the new century?

I'd love to see mankind re-discovering traditional morality and spirituality, to bring us close to the Creator. This will unite mankind to justice and peace.

What would you like to see the human race leave behind for the next millennium?

We will need strong family units, with belief in God and life based on divine principles.

* Sally Strauss is a Jew. She represents the Association of Jewish Teachers on the RE Council.

Will you be celebrating the millennium? Why?

New Year's Eve 1999 is the start of our Shabbat; we'll have a traditional Friday night, although we'll stay up after midnight. On January 1 we're going to a bar mitzvah. I can't think of a better way to celebrate.

What significance (if any) do you see in the year 2000?

The year 2000ADCE is of no religious significance to me. In the Jewish calendar, it is the year 5760. But we live in Britain and use the secular calendar to mark the passage of time.

What do your beliefs say about the passage of the years?

We only live in this world a short time, and in Judaism we are taught to make a positive and useful contribution to life, to make the most of it.

What do your beliefs say about how to celebrate a new year? How do you usually celebrate?

Our New Year is very different to the secular one. Instead of celebrating and partying, we use it as a time of reflection and retrospection. We go to the synagogue and pray, and get together afterwards with family and friends.

What hopes would you most like to see fulfilled in the new century?

Peace is the dream one hopes and prays for - an ability of people of all races and religions to live together. Judaism teaches that peace is achieved in small pieces. Perhaps we need to build faster.

What would you like to see the human race leave behind for the next millennium?

The list is long, and includes the eradication of diseases, like Aids and cancer and a reduction in poverty.

Lat Blaylock works for the Professional Council for Religious Education, Royal Buildings, Victoria Street, Derby DE1 1GW. Tel 01332 296655

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