I have made friendships with incredible people from all walks of life and this includes different religious beliefs.
In one conversation, my Muslim friend asked me what my religion is, to which I responded that I dropped religion about seven years ago and now I take what is good and wise from everyone and everywhere, using that wisdom to build a happy life and be a good person. Additionally, I have grown to pay reverence to my ancestors and embrace an African approach to spirituality.
In Namibia, unfortunately, not being a Christian – and even more so – paying reverence to the ancestors is ignorantly regarded as being of the devil. Like being a Muslim is perceived as terrorism, African spirituality is regarded as nothing but witchcraft.
I have a cousin who assumes that only the Christian faith is the one true religion and if you do not praise their teachings, you are a follower of the anti-Christ. However, we need to be cognizant of the fact that, in a world of 7.5 billion people, 195 countries spread over about 7 continents and islands, roughly 6 500 different languages, it is illogical to assume that religious beliefs should be the same. And that differences should translate into contention.
During a conversation with my friend from Pakistan, we concluded that most young people are tired of their home countries because we need change and this would require that we become global citizens, free to roam around and work anywhere and that borders are a restriction.
Even though this may not be a current reality, as we see more and more Americans moving to Asia for example, it is not farfetched to believe that in the near future, the idea of a global community will be a reality.
The Yoruba people of West Africa’s spiritual traditions are widely practised in Benin and Nigeria and was imported to countries like Cuba during the slave trade. Currently, Latinas practice Santeria which is a fusion between African beliefs and Catholicism. For the Yoruba people, a prayer ends with saying ‘ase’, as opposed to ‘Amen’ in Christianity. Naneni goes to a school that believes in the importance of prayer, which is a great thing. One day, after school, she said, “My teacher didn’t say ‘ase’; she said ‘amen’.” To which I said, “it’s okay. Teacher can say Amen but you can continue to say ase. Us we say ase.”
As millennial parents, who are raising children who will grow up in this global village, how are we preparing our children to be able to live harmoniously with people from different religions without fear and prejudice?
It is important to first make them comfortable in their faith if faith is at all of importance to you. Introducing your child to his/her family’s faith can help them understand the history and grow a strong connection to the faith, knowing why they should follow it. By providing a firm understanding of their beliefs, they are more likely to be secure in them. Tolerance begins at home and thus it will be helpful to teach our children about other beliefs and practices. This we can do by helping our children develop acceptance by exposing them to different people who can share their different beliefs with them. Of course, caution should be given to these adults not to attempt to convert your child but simply to share their beliefs.
To learn about the holy days and practices of other communities, attending and participating in multi-religious events is not only a fun way to add more excitement to your lives but it also aids in discouraging intolerance.