The Bolton Interfaith Council (BIFC) recently organised a meeting held in the Bolton Mandir to discuss the importance of food in a variety of religions.
The panel members initially presented to the floor the views of food in their own religion and then the debate was then open for discussion to the floor. The panel members consisted of reverend Kirsty Thorpe (Christianity), Humaira Altaf (Islam), Mandy Jelenje (Christianity – African Perspective) and Sunil Christie (Hinduism – A Generic Perspective).
In essence, all religions regarded food within religion in a different manner.
The Christian View
The Christian emphasis was more on what came out of your mouth verbally than what goes in. To Christians, food is about bringing people together, just like Jesus and his disciples in the Last Supper.
There was also an importance on giving up specific foods on certain occasions, for instance during Lent, something must be given up to understand Jesus’ sufferings. Also, Catholics refrain from eating meat on Good Friday’s out of respect for Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Fasting is also prevalent in Christianity to make you think of those who cannot eat.
The Islamic View
The importance in Islam is in the way the food is prepared. Certain types of food and actions are considered ‘Haram’, which are prohibited for a Muslim and ‘Halal’ foods and actions, are permitted by Allah. For instance, animals must be slaughtered in a specific manner to be considered as Halal. Muslims are not allowed to use intoxicants such as alcohol and drugs the exception being for medicinal purposes.
Muslims also have the notion of fasting. Ramadan is regarded by all Muslims as their 30 day fast, where they cannot eat, drink, and fornicate between sunrise and sunset. The fasting is there to make a Muslim think about those who cannot eat in the world and restrain themselves from worldly goods in order to become closer to Allah. Food is also of importance on Eid, firstly, to celebrate then end of fasting, secondly, to eat together for unity and friendship and finally to be charitable to the poor.
The Hindu View
As Hinduism branches out into hundreds of smaller sub-sections, it is difficult to maintain one rule for all Hindu’s and although, the Hindu panel member tried to be general in his view, it was clearly pointed out throughout the discussion that the Swaminarayan Faith had stronger beliefs when it came to the significance of food.
It was stated that vegetarianism is important to Hindus in order to aid their souls to attain Moksha (to be free). All life is regarded as sacred and animals must be respected in the same way as human. As humans we have a higher understanding of our surroundings and therefore should not behave like animals.
The Shravan Month has a great importance on all Hindus, where some sort of restriction on the intake of food must be adhered to in order to become closer to God.
The use of intoxicants such as Alcohol and Drugs are not allowed, due to the fact that being in such a state could make you forget the teachings of God and you may commit sins as you no longer have control over your body and mind.
Although the emphasis on all three speeches was about what was prohibited, it was agreed by all that all religions also celebrated the generosity of God on mankind. Each religion celebrates this with feasting in the name of God, whether it was Christmas for Christians, Eid for Muslims or Diwali for Hindus.
The meeting was well attended by an eclectic mix of people with all different backgrounds. All visitors had an amazing opportunity to see the glorious Art Gallery and loved the entertainment provided by the Swaminarayan Gadi Pipe Band.