There is a page dedicated to the memory of Stella Reekie on this website as she has been a great influence in my life and is the pioneer of interfaith work in Scotland.
Here is the Time for Reflection I gave at the Scottish Parliament on International Women's Day 2010.
This week we celebrate International Women’s Day, a day set aside to honour and celebrate the achievements of women. Today I would like to remember a woman whose life has, I think, a message for all of us.
This woman is Stella Reekie, a Church of Scotland deaconess who set up the International Flat in Glasgow and established the first inter faith group in Scotland, the Glasgow Sharing of Faiths.
As a former missionary to Pakistan Stella worked with the new Scots who had mostly come from India and Pakistan helping them integrate into their new surroundings. She realised how important it was to establish understanding and respect not just between cultures but between different faiths.
Behind her commitment to this work was her war time experience when she had been present in the first days of the liberation of Belsen and had seen for herself the horror and destruction of human lives that can emerge from philosophies that judge one group to be superior to another or dehumanise people because they are different.
Perhaps the best tribute to Stella was at her funeral when a Sikh friend said.
For Christians Stella Reekie was a Christian but she was something more than that. She was above labels. For me, a Sikh, Stella was a Sikh because I could see Sikhism reflecting from her daily life.
To me she was like clear running water. If you pour it into the glass it takes the shape of the glass. If you pour it into a flask it takes the shape of the flask. She became the shape of what was needed at any time.
This, I think is the great lesson we could learn from this amazing woman. So often we limit ourselves by our labels whether these be religious, political, cultural or whatever. These labels often confine the way we look at things and prevent us from seeing the truth in other points of view. We can be so hampered by our labels that we are prevented from expressing the values that at heart are our motivation and the source of our commitment. In Scotland we are lucky to have the values that bind us together as a society spelled out on our Mace – wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity.
Perhaps we can allow the memory of Stella Reekie to inspire us to work for those values so that we too can respond to the concerns of others and not curtail this by the labels we give ourselves.