The Importance of Respecting Different Religions On-Board a Ship and Potential Issues Related To This Which Have Been Faced

1st April 2022
The Mission to Seafarers is a faith-based Christian organisation. However, it is deeply committed to a holistic and inclusive approach, and one which shows absolute respect to those of all faiths and none.

When our chaplains and teams go on board, or when seafarers are welcomed into one of our Centres, no distinction is ever made of nationality or of creed. All are equally welcome and can be assured of sensitivity to their own needs and circumstances.

We enjoy partnerships of many different kinds and benefit greatly from those of other faiths, and of none, participating alongside Christians in many aspects of our work. We are also committed to doing all we can to promote harmony on board ship. We are often inspired to see wonderful and supportive relationships between those of different nationalities and faiths within a crew. We do all we can to encourage this.

One Chaplain wrote:

“One of the first ships I visited was crewed by 21 Indian seafarers. I had taken Christmas gifts for the whole crew. As usual, I was taken to the Mess, and introduced to the crew. There was a well decorated Christmas tree, which looked just right for the season. I suddenly realised that not all the crew might not celebrate Christmas, so I offered an apology if the gifts might offend anyone. One of the crew said that I should not apologise, indeed he thought that it was strange to offer one. He said that of the 21 crew, there was a ‘perfect’ split, 7 Hindu, 7 Christian and 7 Muslims. He said that the diversity was perfect because ‘three times the religions, three times the parties and celebrations’. My Christmas sermon reflected on the fact that if the whole world reflected the generosity of spirit I saw on this ship, then it would indeed be a more harmonious place.”

Of course, things are not always so harmonious. One chaplain reflected on more negative experiences:

“When the matter is raised, we find that different religions are either celebrated or ignored. If they are ignored, seafarers are expected to suspend their practice until they leave the ship. This means that a great source of comfort and a big part of their identity is denied, leaving those seafarers floating in a sort of spiritual wilderness. On the occasions that bullying occurs, religious division can be a catalyst or vehicle for this. The most harmonious ships learn to embrace difference in all forms, it’s as simple as that.”

It is our consistent determination to make sure that The Mission to Seafarers is there for all, that every seafarer can find a home and a welcome wherever they may meet us.

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