My God, Your God – Oh My God!

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Something that really got the ‘usually inert citizen of the country’ in me triggered recently was the law that denied education to children; that students had to stand outside the school or college premises; that their entry was denied for reasons other than offensive behaviour of the students.

The reasoning, political ideologies, religious beliefs – I couldn’t get into any of these analyses further because,

the very decision that education should be denied to students is by itself a standalone reason for the fall of a nation.

And, all on the name of God!

While people out in the society and many of us within our homes as well, continue to fight on the name of God, is it possible to build a generation that does not practice these Godly wars? First of all, ask yourself if you want your children to remain neutral to Gods of other religions if not make peace with Them. If the answer is a Yes, continue reading.

If it is a No, re-read the sentence above until you make peace with it.

G – My God, Your God – Oh My God!

Post #7 of the series: Instilling Social Equality in Children

A few years ago, I was a yoga instructor for corporates and personal instructor for women. One such student’s home I used to visit was a Muslim woman who should have been of the same age as I was. One day she said that some of the yoga poses reminds her of how they perform Namaz and since then through the rest of the month’s course, we discussed many similarities between Hinduism and Islam. That short acquaintance stands out warm in my memory because we transcended the boundaries of what we were told all along – the rivalry and differences between the two religions!

I will not be surprised if most of the readers of this post are in strong disfavour of a religion they do not belong to. I know of many in my close circle of people who carry hatred in their hearts for other religions. Hate for other religions is deep-rooted in people across the world more than what we think it is. The biggest problem is not many of us identify it as a problem – a problem that is certainly unhealthy to the entire world in the centuries to come.

This post is mostly for adults to understand that this is becoming a global issue, not just a national issue in our country. And I think one way to get out from this problem is to begin to get closer to the underlying unity that connects Gods of all religions. And this is something we can do at home with children.

Well, what can be practically done at home?

For more rigid mindsets:

If it is not possible to begin a change in our minds, when we talk about other religions to our children, can we limit our opinions to only the Gods and not the people and their practices? Well, what difference can it make? Most often our problem is the practices and attitudes of the other religion and not the faith or God of that religion itself.

When we replace the name of the Gods instead of the people of that religion, we can witness that our hatreds will start to come down. When you say the people of that religion did this or doing this, your emotions will get intense. But when you try to say that the God of that religion did this or is doing this, you wouldn’t really feel good to make that statement. The next time you get triggered to think or talk about that religion you hate, try to fix your mental conversation only about their God. You will see the difference.

It may seem impractical or something that cannot bring a change overnight. That’s true but perhaps our great grand children might reap the benefits. So, let’s try.

For people who are already liberal-minded:

Dress-up your children in costumes of other religions for school cultural programs

For the Republic day celebration at school, children had to dress up representing a state or tradition of India. When I showed the attached picture the school had sent, the boy wanted to dress-up as a Sikh. We watched YouTube videos on how to tie a turban and why it is done and it was a new experience for all of us.

To be in the robe of others is a way to unrobe of ourselves of our rigidities!

Focus on the similarities

Talk with children the similarities between the life stories of krishna and Jesus and how Noah’s Arc and Manu’s boat were similar. Talk how the decline of dharma is the similar basis of birth of a God in religions. Talk about common practices in religions like Dhaan in Hinduism and Zakat in Islam, Ramzan fasting in Islam and Lent, Easter fasting in Christianity.

If we had more knowledge on each other’s religion, we would actually find more similarities than differences. And the whole point in building the hatred will feel trivial. Make this a part of your child’s education at home.

Let them see the Gods and practices of other religions

Take your children to churches. Make them light a candle. Kneel down with them and pray like how you would in a temple. Take them to a Gurdwara. Make them sit in the row and have their food. Read to them the life story of Siddhartha Gautama. Google for “Allah” if you have never done before. Show your children how God need not always be an idol form but can be an inscription as well. Visit a Jain temple in your city. Learn a prayer of another religion.

Give them a chance to see the other faiths. You just need not explain tolerance any further to them because familiarity is the key to develop tolerance!

A few more pointers…

  • Read scriptures and philosophies of a variety of beliefs
  • Don’t restrict their friendships to people of your religion alone
  • Learn together about the festivals of other religions and why and how they are celebrated
  • Tell us what can be added

And nothing can be as effective as diving within to contemplate on the biases and rigidities that have been dumped upon us. Do it together as a family.

One thing that the husband and I have grown together as a couple in our ten years of marriage is not only dissolving any differences we had toward other religions, but also in making an effort in understanding them. The husband has conducted fasting for Lord Ayyappa and visited Sabarimala temple. He has also conducted the entire Ramadan fasting and visited a mosque. It does not mean we do not practice our religion. I am very well a devoted Hindu who connects to the higher divinity through mantras and bhajans as much as I connect through the prayers we hear from the mosque and the image of Jesus Christ in a Church. And all that I say is the more our mind expands, the more closer we get to Humanity!

And the more we would understand that there is no My God and Your God.

If you understood your religion deep enough, you would know this by now!

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