Every culture in the world and every religious tradition have formulas and moments for giving thanks for the food on our table, as a sign of our union with our fellow diners. The event ‘Food for the spirit’ at Expo Milano 2015 reiterated a message of brotherhood and reconciliation, in full respect of the differences which exist between the various religions on our Planet.
Gratitude for food, an inter-religious sentiment
A short pause, but one that embodies a deep meaning: gratitude for the food that we need to survive.
Sometimes it is a religious habit; in other cases it is a small gesture of the lay person that simply acknowledges the food. Even pronounced atheists have their own rituals (for instance they may stop for a few seconds before taking their knife and fork).
In each case, regardless of the words that are said (if indeed any are said), this is a moment we need if we are to regain consciousness of what we are doing, and avoid trivializing a daily practice that should never be taken for granted.
Wealthier populations appear to have lost this habit: when food appears directly on the tables of those accustomed to more, after being cultivated, farmed, processed and delivered by someone else, it is much easier to forget just how valuable it is.
‘The food for the spirit’ in the Charter of Milan
During the inter-religious meeting held on May 21 to mark the UN Day of cultural diversity, those in attendance experienced a symbolic moment charged with strong emotion: each representative blessed the food with a prayer chosen from their own religious tradition. And then this same “superfood” was eaten by all the participants. The Jewish rabbi ate the food blessed by the Islamic imam and by the Buddhist monk, the Catholic priest ate the food also blessed by the Hindu and Protestant traditions… and so on for all the attendees, including the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, a non-believer, but nonetheless touched as were his fellow diners.