I have been privileged to visit over 30+ countries and have always loved the subject of the diversity of religions, cultures, races, and ethnic groups. While growing up, my love for the Native American community, ancient Egyptian history, and the plight of the Tibetans first caught my attention, and then led me further in loving and wanting to help all indigenous and other groups of people in anyway I could.
When you see people who live in poverty, in mud houses, living under railroad cars, having to beg for any handout, it can’t help but touch your heart and make you realize how we here in America and in some other countries have it so good, while our brothers and sisters in other nations live without even the necessities of life. I was brought up believing that poverty causes crime, but my travels showed me that is NOT a true fact. Once we passed by the military rifles in some countries and got into the actual communities of people, I felt no “fear” from the general population and felt safe to walk around by myself through the streets of Egypt, and to enter the homes of the welcoming Chinese. I saw moms and children washing clothes in the Nile, groups of men standing around laughing and talking, but the thing that stood out to me the most was that although they were so poverty stricken, they had something that we no longer had – the art of touching and interaction and caring about one another. There was no holding back like we experience here, or as I even experienced as a teenager. Yes, we are comfortable about hugging or touching people we know or care about, but that obvious question comes to mind that if someone you don’t know reaches out to touch your shoulder or arm, are they making a pass at you, are they gong to attack and harm you – or are they just trying to comfort you, particularly if it is someone of the opposite sex or of a different culture or race? When I was young, girls would hold hands when walking down the street, or dance together at a school function, but now that is not acceptable because people might think you are homosexual, and Heaven forbid that we open that door to intolerance.
Where does intolerance come from? We certainly are not born with it. It is man’s egocentric ways and false teachings we learn as we are children and through out life. Some religions have no tolerance for others, some races no tolerance for others, we condemn people because they look different, talk different, have a different style of life, a different sexual preference, are physically or mentally disabled, or are poor because of lack of education and/or jobs, have a college degree or not, or have a different way of seeing things (and this leads us back to “How something appears is always a matter of perspective…”. Who gives us the right to discriminate against a fellow human being? No problems can be solved by ignoring them and not talking about it, but there is a gigantic difference in reasonable debate and discussion rather than allowing our ego to get in the way and only seeing things through our own perspective then trying to discuss the other side of the equation. So often in my life I’ve heard there are three sides to every story – his, hers, and the truth which usually lies in between. Even worse then skirting the issues and keeping silent, is seeing a problem and not trying to do something about it. “I looked around and wondered why somebody wasn’t doing something, but then I realized I was “somebody“.
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:
- “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.
- Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
- Then they came for the Gypsies, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Gypsy.
- Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.
- Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. “
Recently I’ve seen people add:
- Then they came for the Christians, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Christian,
but can’t we also add:
- Then they came for the peaceful Muslims, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Muslim?
People, it is time for us to realize that there are good and bad in all religions and cultures. We are plagued with daily news about Jews, Christians, and moderate/peaceful Muslims being kidnapped, raped, beheaded, set on fire, and killed in other horrible ways by radical extremist terrorists all under the pretense of somehow being superior, out of the greed for money and power, but they use the name of God or a particular religion to cover up their actions, so it is time for all of us to open our eyes and not blame any particular group of people by painting them with one big brush stroke because there are radicals among us everywhere, in every culture and country. These radical extremists are not religious leaders, they do not speak for the masses.
Are the terrorists that lead our daily local news any different than the people who rape, steal, and murder one another everyday in the streets and neighborhoods of our own country? We call them gangs, or criminals, but they also come from the same perspective, one of lack of respect for themselves or others, lack of respect for other people’s property and/or rights, lack for the sanctity of life, denial of the “One Creator”, and all in the name of greed for money, power, or instant gratification.
For a better understanding on what makes me think like I do, please make sure to read the next sub section – “View on Religion – The Conference Most High”.