Superstition or Violation of Religious Freedom?

Carey mini-Blog

The University of British Columbia’s Board of Governors has approved a 15-bed hospice on a campus location, even as some residents of a neighbouring high-rise condominium continue to object to the facility on what they say are cultural grounds. Their reasoning, according to the a letter written to the University Neighbourhood Association, subscribe to the belief that death is considered the “yin,” and life is the “yang” and when combining the two results in poverty, sickness and death because ghosts will invade and harass the living. This stems from the belief of feng shui, the belief that one can avoid “negative chi” through design. Building next to a hospital, cemetery, funeral home or hospice would expose the energy of death on its inhabitants.

While opponents have dismissed the residents’ concerns as mere superstition, resident and realtor Jane Li during a press conference at the time dismissed the notion that it was not due to superstition, but rather 5,000 years of culture and religion.  She further added that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protected her rights to religious beliefs.

While I fully support that our rights to religious beliefs should be protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, one needs to distinguish what is considered superstition with what is considered religious practice or ritual. Having grown up in a traditional Chinese family, I am fully aware of Chinese superstitious practices.  When I got married, my mother-in-law did not allow me to wash my hair on the Lunar New Year’s Day for fear of washing away all my good luck and fortunes.  The ironic thing about this is that my mother-in-law is a practicing Catholic!

If the university was forcing Jewish and Muslim students or employees to consume pork or requiring Christian students and employees to marry only same-sex partners, I can understand that would be a fundamental violation of one’s religious rights and freedoms. But to protest the building of a hospice on the grounds that it violates one’s religious beliefs does not make sense.  The article states another example of another neighbourhood protesting the construction of a funeral home, but in this case, the residents believed that it would prevent future buyers from choosing to live in the neighbourhood.[1] I feel that the residents are more concerned about having their property value drop than believing that it violates their rights and freedoms to be living in close proximity to a hospice.

Finally, the residents claim that “yin” which represents death should not be in close proximity to “yang” which represents life and will result in bad luck. Close examination of the yin-yang symbol shows not a straight line, but rather a wavy line.  The whole of the yin and yang is about life and life is not complete when only one is present. In other words, the yin and yang exists when the yang is next to the yin in order to make it whole because the Chinese believe that everything in life should be balanced. Hospice is a part of a life process.  If there is life, there must be death.

Link: http://goo.gl/OjUn5R

[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/funeral-home-faces-opposition-at-new-location-1.1333387

4 thoughts on “Superstition or Violation of Religious Freedom?

  1. Hi,
    Is there any truth to Feng Shui? Is there any truth to the notion that the condo owners are using a cultural ‘wild card’ to prevent the hospice from being built? Personally, I am not sure. What I do realize here, however, is the issue of division verses harmony. Interestingly, the article indicates that there was a study to determine whether cultural values were at stake. Okay, that’s a good start. What about a study to determine how those involved could resolve the issue?

    Good leadership will bring these two groups of concerned Canadian citizens to a common table to discuss, in earnest, a way in which to mutually benefit both parties. The skills involved in doing this will require listening, empathy, awareness, foresight, commitment to growth of people, and the building of a community. It is easy to build walls of silence and possibly hostility. Yes, there is effort to work together, to wade through culture and/or human foibles.

    But wouldn’t those individuals who might live in a hospice be given as sense of dignity and care they so desperately need? Isn’t that a ‘debate’ worth taking on?

  2. Hi,
    Is there any truth to Feng Shui? Is there any truth to the notion that the condo owners are using a cultural ‘wild card’ to prevent the hospice from being built? Personally, I am not sure. What I do realize here, however, is the issue of division verses harmony. Interestingly, the article indicates that there was a study to determine whether cultural values were at stake. Okay, that’s a good start. What about a study to determine how those involved could resolve the issue?

    Good leadership will bring these two groups of concerned Canadian citizens to a common table to discuss, in earnest, a way in which to mutually benefit both parties. The skills involved in doing this will require listening, empathy, awareness, foresight, commitment to growth of people, and the building of a community. It is easy to build walls of silence and possibly hostility. Yes, there is effort to work together, to wade through culture and/or human foibles.

    But wouldn’t those individuals who might live in a hospice be given a sense of dignity and care they so desperately need? Isn’t that a ‘debate’ worth taking on?

  3. Ironically, most of the opponents are Chinese. As a Chinese, unfortunately, I would say that they don’t really understand what they have labeled as religions or superstition practice. After sixty years domination of Communism, no one really know what Fengshui or Yin-Yang means. For my personal perception, that’s the fear of death and a profound lack of respect to those people who are in their last stage of flesh life. If one of the opponents’ family member would need a hospice on the next day, for sure he or she would change his or her mind immediately! For those who would sell their condo and move out, for sure they won’t mention the hospice to the buyers. They could even probably do their best consoling the future buyers if they notice the hospice. Sorry for my negative comments on those “poor” residents. They really need help to their soul but not to their ideas. Their fear and anxiety of their lives is deeply rooted in the influence of Marxism that everything terminates after death (substance’s determination). When could they recognize the real beauty of life? I can’t force them to change their mind, but God can. May God comfort them.

  4. I think that you hit the nail on the head with regards to the yin and yang being inseparable partners to balance the universe. Do you think this is a result of a departure from traditional religious practices to an extent that they are really not understood by those who claim to have them? Is it simply a card they like to pull out for power as you allude to near the end of your post?
    I think that modern Christianity can be criticized in a similar way, probably more so south of the line, but also here in Canada. We try and put safe distance between ourselves and the world by creating isolated sub-cultures, yet it is precisely to the world that we are being commissioned to go. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and this article.

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