Building mutual respect by studying others’ beliefs

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood

When I was a senior in high school, the youth group at the First Baptist Church in Maryville took several weeks studying the other religions in the community. They visited each church where the youth in those churches presented information about their beliefs.

It impressed me that young kids (and their leaders) were interested in knowing what others believed.

It was also exciting to share what I believed with kids in my high school, so they could hear it from us and ask questions about what they had “heard” we believed or thought they knew about us.

That experience struck me in a way I have never forgotten. It has also helped me to value a good source of knowledge and truth as a journalist. And more importantly, it instilled deeply in me a love and respect of all people and their beliefs.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “It is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others’ religions as we would have them respect our own, a friendly study of the world’s religions is a sacred duty.”

I love this. Why should we expect to be respected if we don’t show that same consideration? And how can we do this if we don’t understand or are misinformed?

This is one of the reasons for a new series I’m starting in today’s paper on religions in Nodaway County. Surveys were sent out to approximately 50 churches, asking their leaders to answer a few basic questions about their church organization and religion. Questions about their basic beliefs, what people misunderstand about them and so on.

In the coming weeks, I hope this series will help enlighten readers (and myself) about the different religious offerings in our community, hopefully in an effort to build mutual respect for one another.

Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Each of us [from various religious denominations] believes in the fatherhood of God, although we may differ in our interpretations of Him. Each of us is part of a great family, the human family, sons and daughters of God, and therefore brothers and sisters. We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse.”

From the information I have gathered, most Nodaway County residents practice Christianity, so that’s what this series will focus on; however, I would hope that it might be a spark that provides us the desire to learn about other world religions. Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism… to embark on a journey of understanding not dissimilar to that of “Siddhartha,” where Hermann Hesse wrote:

“It may be important to great thinkers to examine the world, to explain and despise it. But I think it is only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration and respect.”

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