BBC Wales - Word for the Week
26th February 1998
Greenwich - the place to be on New Year’s Eve 1999? “The most exciting day out in the world”? The government is certainly trying to entice us with the delights to be enjoyed within the massive structure of the Millennium Dome.
Mr Blair wants “today’s children to take from it a experience so powerful and memories so strong that it gives them an abiding sense of purpose and unity that stays with them through the rest of their lives”. To achieve that objective, the Dome will contain exhibitions of all aspects of human life, including what for me is the most intriguing - the Spirit Level.
Despite the humorous title, this section is not meant to be a flippant portrayal of spiritual values. Indeed, the description of gardens inspired by several religious traditions sounds rather nice. I like the idea of an “oases of calm and reflection” - especially in the midst of an attraction with 12 million visitors a year.
Certainly, the date 2000 must be of particular importance to Christians, and I hope there will be many specifically Christian events to mark it. But, as a Hindu, I’m glad that there is also to be an all-inclusive celebration. The Millennium will be a time for all communities to think ahead and pray that the next thousand years is happier than the last.
One of the main criticisms of religion is that it has spawned so much war and conflict. It may be argued, though, that it is not religion that causes fighting, but our lack of tolerance towards people of a different group, whether it be religious, racial or national. I am, therefore, delighted that tolerance will be the central message of the Spirit Level exhibit.
Now, I’m all for the teaching of comparative religion, but not the style that over-emphasises the differences among the religious traditions we have in Britain. So, I do hope that the Millennium Experience will promote the common themes. We all share a wonder of the natural world; we marvel at the intelligence and power that must lie behind it; we ponder our destiny; and we have an intuitive awareness of the soul - that part of us we know to be eternal.
Yes, we may favour differing answers and explanations; but it would be a promising start to the next millennium if we can accept that the various faith traditions together are the richest resource that human society has to help each one of us discover a higher purpose and sense of unity.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Word for the Week” on BBC Radio Wales.