Bahai News - Knowledge halts bigotry

Knowledge halts bigotry

Source: Florida Today
Publication date: 2000-09-22
Arrival time: 2000-11-14


When I was a little girl of 4, my parents started me in religious school because I seemed so interested when my grandmother took me to Sabbath services with her.

At that time, of course, I only was aware of my own religion, which I wanted to learn more about.

During the "growing up" years, this interest expanded when I discovered there were other religions out there. I wanted to know what was different about them.

For example, during my Scouting years, one girl had to get permission from her house of worship to attend a service in our house of worship. That got me curious.

Then as a teen-ager with foreign pen pals, I started learning about the various cultures and religions of people in other countries.

This led to more fascination as I discovered that, despite some great differences, there were many beliefs, customs and rituals that we held in common.

As I became an adult, I began to inquire and read more about religions.

My activities in Junior Women's Club gave me, for the first time, an opportunity to be the only representative of my religion in a group and to help others learn about my religion.

The club observes an annual religious worship weekend, and I invited a group of women who knew nothing about Judaism to my house of worship. This was their first opportunity to go to a synagogue, and many came.

In turn, each year on the Sunday of their worship services, I got to visit a different Christian house of worship.

Finally in the past few years, I have been able to expand this opportunity to the community through the Elderlearning Institute, a volunteer-run program sponsored by Elderhostel and Brevard Community College.

When I started taking Elderlearning classes about six years ago, a class on different religions got me hooked. But no further classes dealt with this topic.

So, I volunteered to coordinate a class on world religions, which began this past April. After arranging for a program, speakers, schedule and arrangements, I was thrilled when 75 senior citizens signed up moreso when their after-class comments made me feel I had done something really worthwhile.

Our speakers, from the local Baha'I, Muslim and Jewish congregations, also were impressed. As one said to me, "It's a pleasure to come to a class where people are here because they really want to learn more."

Another class will be in April, featuring speakers from the Buddhist, Hindu and Greek Orthodox communities of Brevard County.

Why do I do this?

For one thing, I have always found religion a very interesting subject, and enjoy learning more about it. Perhaps coming from a minority religion, where I often had to explain things to others, had some bearing on this although as a child growing up in the Bronx, New York, I thought the whole world was Jewish for some of my childhood years.

Secondly, but just as important, is this: Coming from a religious background that often faced bigotry, I feel very strongly that the more we learn about each others' religions, the more we will understand each other.

Ignorance breeds bigotry. So the more knowledge we have, and the more we realize how many things we do have in common, the more likely (it is) bigotry will begin to diminish and some day actually disappear.

None of us can change the world, but each of us can work to change things within our own little corners of the world.

If we understand more about our neighbors, our common beliefs as well as our differences, we may be less inclined to "knock" or "put down" something that is different and stop passing bigotry from parent to child and on to each generation.

We are all children of one Supreme Being. We are all taught the Golden Rule in one version or another. We all pray for that day when peace will come to the world.

Yet most wars, past and present, are fought over our religious differences.

Let us all become educated enough to really practice what we are taught and to take the steps that will lead to that peace.

Lucy Kline is publicity chairwoman for Temple Israel in Viera, and she is active in local Jewish, civic and interfaith efforts.

Rita Elkins' Focus on Faith column will return next week.

See Saturday's People section for more Spirituality coverage and Religion Briefs.

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