Letter to the Editor (27 February 2013) (not published by either Fiji Sun or The Fiji Times)
I would like to encourage Ms Patricia Mallam that she is in good company defending the freedom of her child not to be coerced into attending any school religious ritual that she does not believe in.
More than a hundred years ago, the genuinely great Harvard University faced that same dilemma, reminded its current President (or Vice Chancellor) (Professor Drew Faust), in her morning prayer with the Harvard University community.
Faust remembered the contributions of a former President of Harvard (Charles Elliot) who not only converted Harvard from a mere “College” to a “University” but he fought for members of Harvard to have the individual freedom to attend or not attend religious rituals and prayers.
Readers may access her full speech here: http://www.harvard.edu/president/morning-prayers-2007 (and also read about this remarkable university administrator).
Faust, the President of Harvard University gave thanks that they had the opportunity to choose to pray rather than be compelled.
She observed: ” Our religious affiliations are far more varied than he (Elliot) ever could have imagined. … Let us continue in this new year our dedication to Harvard’s liberality as regards opinions, its devotion to ideals, and the preciousness in its sight of individual liberty.”
Ms Mallam, one day your daughter may get to Harvard, or some other great comparable
academic institution, where she will not only have freedom of religion, but also the respect of others for her right to be not compelled in others’ faiths. In the meantime, press on regardless.
Every public crisis and debate should makes us all think deeper about the purpose and practice of life, whether coup, constitution, democracy, and basic human right (including freedom of religion).
Professor Wadan Narsey