I can understand these three major Christian denominations getting together to sing carols. It makes sense, as they all share Christmas as an important festival.
But the ecumenical spirit has taken hold to such an extent that this is how my local paper, the Diamond Valley Leader (7th December 2005) describes the forthcoming event:
Wurundjeri elder Dot Peters will welcome guests to the country and tell an indigenous story. A Muslim woman will talk about her religion and Islam's practices around Christmas time and a Hindu woman will explain the customs of her faith.
A Buddhist blessing with gongs and Baha'i songs sung by children will also feature in the celebration, which begins at 7.30pm.
So there you are. The Christian residents of this area (we are not yet a multicultural suburb) are to begin their night of celebration with a reminder that they are "guests" in their own country (that should establish a festive atmosphere!) and rather than simply sing carols, they will be forced to adopt the all too familiar role of observing and celebrating other cultures. The passive look-on role.
There is too much self-erasure in all of this. How do these churches hope to maintain the pull of their own religious tradition, if their main concern, even during Christmas, is to celebrate the multicultural other (even in places where it doesn't yet exist)?
One further thing to note. There is a photo in the paper showing children rehearsing the carols on stage. Behind them are four equal size banners. One says "Jesus Christ" and has the emblem of a cross. The next says "Muhammed" and has the crescent emblem. Then there is "Krishna" with a Hindu emblem and "Bahaulla" with a Baha'i insignia.
It looks odd. It looks like a smorgasbord of divinities all stuck together and all made equivalent at what is supposed to be a Christian celebration.