The Crossroads of Faith
By Nadia O’Brien
If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that when nature hit us with all that it could, it did not discriminate. It did not yield. Covid-19 has done us all in, irrespective of whether we are black, brown, Caucasian or Asian, rich or poor, differently-abled or not, man, woman or child, an ailing patient or a world-famous athlete, a child in an Indian slum or the President of USA, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. Nature does not care about our position, human-made or natural. So why do we?
Our privilege is the only thing that can make life a little easier for us. White privilege, male privilege, the privilege to be able to afford, to walk, run, see, hear and feel- all the luxuries that one often takes for granted, all the luxuries that help us hold on a little longer. This brings me to my point- there are already so many things that can divide us. Why allow Hindu privilege, Muslim privilege, Christian privilege, Sikh privilege, Buddhist privilege, Jain privilege or any religious privilege to exist?
Faith acts as an anchor. It teaches us who to be and who not to be. It makes us better people, teaches us how we can look at ourselves in the mirror each morning and be proud of the person that we see. But would you be pleased to see in your reflection, a person who discriminates, abuses their position, and thinks that they are better than everyone else because of who they worship?
My faith teaches me to be kind, compassionate, caring, available, charitable, less materialistic. It teaches me to give back to the world, to be kind to myself, to other people, and nature, it teaches me to never take anyone or anything for granted. Did you manage to guess what faith I belong to? Probably not. Because of every belief, every form of faith, every religion teaches you the same things. What does your faith teach you that others do not?
Your faith did not teach you to break hearts, but to mend them. It did not teach you to steal, but to give back. It did not teach you to shut Jews into concentration camps; it taught you to be kind. It did not teach you to fight the Crusades or commit violence as jihad; it taught you that killing is wrong. It did not tell you to hunt down Sikhs and break their families; it taught you to respect and love others. It did not teach you to force mass upheaval for years after achieving democratic freedom previously unknown to you; it taught you to be at peace with those around you. It did not teach you to fight for the holy land; it taught you God is everywhere, that God lives in our hearts. It did not teach you to burn down mosques, break temples, destroy churches-it taught you that love is the very foundation on which humanity is built.
Every day, when we wake up, life gives us a choice. We can either choose to look at all the things that unite us or let the things that were created to divide us continue to divide us. Every day, we are made to interpret what matters. Some of us choose to take what faith teaches us to be good human beings and help more people have less to suffer from. Others choose to be the cause of the suffering, completely misinterpreting what their faith tells them to do.
Religion is at the most significant crossroad it has ever been at. What was created to help us and protect us, has been misinterpreted to endanger and divide us. Disrespect, disregard and distrust have become the basis of religious plurality today. We do not distance ourselves from something as personal as someone else’s religious and spiritual beliefs. Instead, we choose to look at how different we are from each other and be critical of the choices that others make that we do not. We have gravely misinterpreted God, and have created havoc and destruction in their name. National military budgets are more extensive than ever before. While we should be spending money on social welfare and environmental protection, we are spending our money stuck in a “my house is bigger than your house” conflict.
The truth is, this is not what God wants. What God- Allah, Waheguru, Jesus, Buddha, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, Mother Mary, Saraswati and Lakshmi all want is the one thing- to set us on the right path, to help each other and to be kind to others and ourselves. When are we going to stop fighting each other and putting the blame on them? When are we going to stop taking holy books so literally, and start reasoning with those who tell us that God wants us to defend them violently, abusively and disrespectfully? When are we going to stop taking humanity for granted?
When are we going to remember that even when religion divides, God still unites?