Sunday, March 6, 2011

Religious Tolerance

I ran into this article after someone posted it on Facebook. This article discusses how a Mormon Church in Missouri opens its doors to Muslims on Fridays for their Friday worship. Friday prayers are really important to Muslims. Friday to them is what Sunday is to Mormons and other Christians. Muslim leaders came forward in an Interfaith Council and asked for a place to worship on Sundays as they did not have a local mosque to use yet. A member of the Council was Mormon and was the connection they needed.
Then I found out today that The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the same religion discussed in the article for those of you who are not familiar with my church) is sending aid to Libya. They are working with other countries and with a large Muslim organization to get the aid into Libya, as the United States is not allowed in.

These stories came at an interesting time. I have been thinking a lot about the Muslim faith lately and one night I had a rather intense discussion with my husband about some of my feelings.  I was saying that I felt Muslims needed to be more open and upfront about what they believe and about their feelings on events in the Middle East. If they don't condone violence, then say so. This course of action is taken often by Muslims groups in the United States. The Muslims in my area are well known for making public statements condoning violence and for reaching out to the community. But, I felt that more Muslims needed to come out against all the violence and hate. That they needed to do more to allow us to know how they feel.

But then my husband (who is much more kind than I am) was pointing out that people who judge Muslims based on what extremists do are somewhat shortsighted and judgmental. And this is true too. I would not want someone to judge my church if one person twisted the beliefs of my faith and went and committed violence against others.

It is hard though. What is unique about the Muslims faith is that many countries are governed on Shariah law or other laws based on the Muslim faith. Their faith becomes their way of life too. So when bad things happen, such as the killing of a young girl, it is hard to separate the two. Is the Muslim faith a violent faith or  a peaceful one? This question often bothers me. And so many times after reading blogs and the news, I don't feel the greatest of feelings towards Muslims. I am left with misgivings and a sad heart for everything that is going on in the world.

But after talking to my husband I realized that it is not necessarly fair for me to place such a burden on Muslims. That I shouldn't feel that they must be okay with violence if they don't cry out against it more loudly. While I still believe that it would help for them to step forward and start being more vocal about their feelings, I can not lay that whole burden on them.

And after much though I have made the following conclusion:

I think it is important for members of different faiths to open up to each other, to get to know each other, to be tolerant of each others faith. I like the idea of Interfaith Councils and Interfaith Events. These councils allow people to more intimately get to know other religions. They give them a chance to discuss what is going on in their congregations, to discuss their views of events in the world, to ask for help and to give help.

Neighborhoods are no longer well knit communities. Oftentimes, your only friends are those you interact with at work or school or church. This doesn't necessarily allow for diversity of religions in your group of friends and acquaintances. And this may not be a good thing.

This interaction could only be more eye opening. At this stage of my life, I know no Muslims.  I know someone who is Jewish, but not active. In fact, I don't know many really religious people except for Mormons. This mean that much of what I know about other religions comes from what I read about on the news and on blogs. This can leave me with a very narrow mind on religons.

Perhaps there is a hole in our society that could be filled with more Interfaith Councils and Events. Or perhaps we just need to make a greater effort in getting to know our neighbors. Personal interaction and experience is often times more effective than reading a dozen articles all stating the same thing.

I for one hope that I can be less narrow minded. I will probably still have some misgivings about certain fascists of other faiths. But I need to remember that what is going on in the Middle East is more of a political issue than a religious issue (though the two can not be totally seperated). It concerns peoples feelings, way of life, and social/political structure. And all I can do for them is pray that things will work out. That the governments involved will make the right decisions and that slowly, yet surely, they can take the steps necessary to bring peace to their land and their lives.

P.S. I can't finish without saying that I do have a few misgivings about the situation in the article. Mainly, that they cover up the picture of Jesus. To me, that feels like someone coming into my home and covering up my picture of Jesus because they don't believe in him. But in the end, I think God is happy that his building is being used for service and I think he understands. So I need to be understanding of it too.

P.P.S. I know some may disagree with me. Some may view me as too lenient on the Muslim religion, while others may view me as too hard on them. But I am okay with that and I am okay with where I stand on this issue right now. But I also understand where each side comes from. So please to not feel scared to tell me your feelings, whatever they may be.

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