The start of this post is a reply that I wrote to a comment posted by Jalal Awan on my post relating to the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad last weekend.
Jalal – I’m so sorry for the troubles which Pakistan is suffering. I wanted to reassure you that it is not the whole world that you need to convince of the basic peace loving nature of the majority of Muslims. My longest standing friend from high school has married a Pakistani man from Lahore and has converted to Islam and they are two of the kindest and most gentle, peace loving people I know.
There are plenty of people who call themselves Christian who terrorise innocent people around the world, and yet not all Christians are tarred with the same brush. There are extremists in almost all religions who mar the image of the followers of their religion around the rest of the world. As has been pointed out so many times, we need to remember that it is only a minority and that the rest of the world is quite content to live peacefully alongside everyone else.
I will be posting this comment and some other points as a blog post as I feel very strongly about acceptance of people’s beliefs and ways of life. I hope that Pakistan can find its way to a more peaceful future very soon and I pray that your family will stay safe.
When my friend converted to Islam there were some people who thought she was doing the wrong thing, that she should stay true to the religion of her childhood. Probably that her face didn’t fit in her choice of faith. However, she had researched widely into the Islamic belief system and way of life and decided that it made sense to her and was a way of life that she could happily sustain. And I can honestly say that since her marriage she has been more contented and happy than at any other time in the eighteen years I have been fortunate enough to have been her friend. Her conversion has not impeded our friendship at all. If anything, I have benefitted through being able to learn more about Islam from her. A few years ago I couldn’t have told you what Ramadan was about, let alone the name of the festival at the end of the month. I don’t know if I could even have told you the name of the Prophet (my religious education in school was sketchy, to put it mildly). And so she has helped me to widen my view of the world, to understand more views than my own and those nearest to me. Her branching out into the world has encouraged me to develop views and ideas which I had not taken the time to consider before.
Why should our faith preclude us from understanding and accepting the beliefs of others? I believe that my faith is a private thing. I don’t shout from the rooftops my religion and I don’t force it upon others whom I know to have differing beliefs. I know what I believe in and I take great comfort from that. This may well be the only post that I publish in which I refer to religion, and the intensity of my belief may well surprise even those close to me. I don’t attend church services as often as I probably should, but then I don’t think that this is necessary to be a good Christian. I know of many people who do go to church much more regularly than me who leave their Christianity and compassion at the church door when they leave after Sunday morning service and don’t give it a thought until the next Sunday when they mutter the prayers laid out in their prayer books without a thought to the meaning of the words they are reciting. There are many people who regularly go to church services who are intolerant of people of different faiths, different sexuality and even race or skin colour. How is this consistent with the teachings of Jesus? As I understand it, in order to be a good Christian one must care for and respect everyone. Regardless of whether they too were baptised or not.
I’m not perfect, and I do find it hard to be tolerant of everyone and kind to everyone equally. However, I do not tolerate people less or treat people worse because of their way of life or their belief structure. I am far more likely to be less tolerant to people who are rude, unkind or (my pet hate) glorying in their own ignorance. I am working at my patience and temper, and pray daily for help in conquering these faults. I pray especially for help conquering my laziness and lack of will power, as well as help to be more patient and accepting with my family (I get cross with my children too easily!).
Obviously we will never have a perfect world. But in the nearest we could get to having a perfect world, I wish that everyone could sit down and learn a little about other faiths. I wish that people could see how much more we all have in common than we have separating us. I wish that we could all meet more people from different backgrounds and realise that we are all humans with similar agendas of living a healthy life and bringing up our families as best we can. I wish there could be some respite from all of this religious turmoil and conflict. I wish that the money being ploughed into continuing all of the wars across the world could be put into solving the problems of the millions who are starving, or the many diseases which could be cured or prevented given the research and resources. However, wishes are just more hot air, and we get enough of that from the world leaders. I will carry on living my life being the best person I can be and doing my best to instill respect into my children for their fellow human beings. Hopefully their generation will be able to solve these problems more readily than we can.