Spiritual journeys

29th November 2002 at 00:00
Tom Deveson on permanent values that underlie migration and change

ROOTED: a study pack from Christian Aid. Based on the Channel 5 TV series, containing an edited 70-minute video version of the films, a teacher's book and six large posters. Price: pound;15.99. Tel: 020 7523 2229. www.globalgang.org.ukrooted.

W B Yeats's prayer for his daughter - that she should be "rooted in one dear perpetual place" - is magnificent but no longer fitting or feasible.

Countless British children live thousands of miles from their grandparents. The films in Rooted follow some of them as they reverse their forebears'

travels, making brief visits from London to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, from Oxford to Senegal, from Cardiff to South India and from Leeds to North India. They leave their customary lives behind, but find aspects of them, particularly those to do with their spiritual beliefs, both transformed and strangely familiar at the end of their journey.

The children are about 11 years-old. They introduce us to their schools in the UK and to their families. We see them practising their religion, either in an act of worship or by participating in a ceremony. Then we see them welcomed in a new land by an extended family, playing with other children, buying food and having fun. The six faiths of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism come directly under the spotlight.

Jhuvilyn goes to see the Black Christ in Manila. Simon goes to see the place in the Ukraine where his Jewish grandfather fled in 1942. It becomes evident that religions cannot be frozen into changeless forms and develop as they move from their places of origin. The children in the films reflect on what has surprised them, what they have learned and how their deeper values have been challenged or reinforced.

The teacher's book suggests many opportunities for children of the same age to do the same in school. They might think about how different statues of the Buddha can express differing emotions and attributes without looking like a specific person; they could consider how shrines play both a public and a private role in Hindu life; they might explore the importance of symbolism to Christian believers, or why Muslims shun sculptures and pictures but cover mosques with decorative patterns.

Moral issues are seen to arise from religious commitment. Children are invited to think about what the Jews' bondage in Egypt tells us about the need for freedom and self-determination, or what Sikhs' pledge to give a tenth of their income as charity would feel like if pocket money were put under a comparable voluntary tax. Rooted speaks eloquently about a world of refugees and migrants, but also about the permanent values that underlie movement and flux.

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