Many faiths at final event held in centre

Members of the Auckland Interfaith Council and speakers.

“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.” St Teresa of Kolkata shared this wisdom when she was working in India, a country of many faiths and cultures. 

The last event at Te Ngakau Waiora Mercy Spirituality Centre before its closure at the end of July concerned “Feeling a Divine Presence in the Light of different Faiths”. About 50 people attended.  

The July 29 event was organised by the Mercy Spirituality Centre in cooperation with the Auckland Interfaith Council (AIFC). 

 Ten speakers of different faiths reflected on the theme of “presence”. Ruth Cleaver, the AIFC president and Beate Matthies, the manager of the Mercy Spirituality Centre, welcomed the participants and speakers together. 

Ms Matthies, who is also the Catholic representative on the AIFC, commented that “presence” was often considered as rather mystical. Referring to the Bible, she mentioned the prophet Elijah’s search for the Almighty God in a great wind, in an earthquake or in a fire. God was in none of them. God was present in the silence. (1 Kings 19:11-13) 

The next speaker, Ram Lingam, recalled a little anecdote on a mistaken identity during his last visit to India. Mr Lingham, then turning to the topic, said that, in his Hindu tradition, human beings are always in the presence of the divine – and the divine is present in us. Therefore, the Indian greeting is “Namaste”, which translates to “I bow to the divine in you”. 

Diane Winder, an Interfaith/Interspiritual minister, said that the divine presence was everywhere, and that she felt it, for example, when walking in silence through the kauri trees. 

Paul Wilton, a Jewish speaker, explained the concept of believing that the world stands on three things: the Torah (God’s word), Avodah (worship, service of God) and Gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness). He concluded his speech with a song of praise. Everybody turned silent when he chanted in Hebrew. 

Imam Muhammed Shaakir had asked another member of his Muslim congregation to give a speech on the divine presence, according to Islamic traditions. Anzar Chida, a young man of Indian heritage, stated that we human beings could never understand what God is – God is always bigger than anything we would be able to understand. Mr Chida then recited a poem that he had written on his feeling about God. 

Harpreet Singh Kohli represented the Sikh community, and explained how he was meditating on one of the mantras: Sing . . . Tuhi Tuhi Tuhi – This is you, this is you, this is you. For the Sikh, the divine was inside of oneself. 

Muriel Samuela from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mentioned the importance of gathering to worship and the efforts to keep the Divine Covenants, especially to show love for one’s neighbour. 

Steve Drake, who represents the Baha’i Faith on the AIFC, shared his spiritual experience of a pilgrimage to a sacred place. It was a very special experience, and a strong feeling of love that will always stay with him. 

The last speaker of the evening was Rev. Ivica Gregurec from the Anglican Church in Auckland. Following on the notion of sacred spaces, he mentioned special places of presence in churches, shrines and sacraments – and people standing on holy ground. 

The Buddhist member of the Auckland Interfaith Council, Caitlin Bush, had provided a quote from the founder of Buddhism, which was printed on the leaflet that was given out to the participants: “If you wish to know the divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand.” 

The atmosphere during the event was relaxed and positive. People commented on the obvious love, camaraderie and fellowship amongst the council members. 

Other comments were that the evening was heartfilled, professional, interesting, enlightening and beautiful . . . the best yet, they said.  

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Beate Matthies

Reader Interactions


  1. Logan J Stuart says

    Is this Catholic? “Feeling a Divine Presence in the Light of different Faiths” this seem like Catholics are partaking in heretics? its suggesting the other Faiths are partakers in the Divine Presence, in the One Truth God, which would mean that Catholicism is not the only one truth Faith and that all faiths can get you access to the Divine. God through Mary our Mother can give a not Catholics the grace to Feel God’s Divine Presence but this is despite of their faith. In Fact their Faiths are getting in the way of them finding and believing in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, it’s in our Creed.

  2. Gregory says

    50 years ago someone made a bequest to this order and that “widow’s mite” is now consumed. ‘Stewards” should keep in mind, ‘easy come, easy go’ until it’s all gone.

  3. Kieran Fenn FMS says

    There are many paths to God. As a Catholic I rejoice in the fact that in God’s wisdom the path that I walk is through the knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ and the God he revealed as a loving Abba. This I am given through the gift of Holy Spirit. I value and am grateful for this path and I respect other paths that lead people to God. I am a Christian first, in the Roman Catholic community and I value that call and gift. I am saddened by people who do not recognise the dimension involved in the term “catholic”. Thank God that God’s will is for the salvation “of all”, not just “the many” of the Roman Catholic community. And by the way, Mary is honoured in Islam.


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