World Religions- Love and Living with Differences

So far in our wanderings, we have lived in countries that are primarily Hindu, Muslim, and Christian. Korea had many Buddhist temples and Buddhists as well. I have found out a few things about the human family that are encouraging and I wanted to share. Please note that this is based on my observations and my opinions alone. I am not a sociologist or a theologian, just a traveling observer with some time to think.

First of all, I think the undercurrent of all of these religions is love. Love for family, love for God (in whatever form) and love for others. Of course there are extremists in all religions that don’t practice this principle, but I have found that most people that I interact with are kind, loving and courteous.

Case in point: after humoring us by allowing Landon to trick or treat around
the hotel, some hotel staff came back the next day to drop off a pumpkin bag,
candy, treats and another present. This is going way above and beyond
anything that they would be required to do for their job. It’s just love and service.

 I find that as we travel to other countries, we are treated in ways that differ dramatically from how we would be treated in the United States if we were foreigners- especially those that look different. Everywhere we go, everyone loves Landon. They come up and try to talk to us, play with Landon, in some cases giving treats or toys. They welcome us and ask what we are doing here and how long we are staying, and if we like it. I think it is easier in Asia to do this because we look so different and are obviously not from the area. I think one thing in the US that is different is that people came from so many different places that there is no way of knowing if they are a foreigner or not. I’m hoping that is it. I know socially that I would not just randomly walk up to someone even if I knew they were from another country and start asking them about their lives. I wouldn’t give their kids toys or candy. Why? Why is everyone else so much more open to “different” people than we are in the US?

Indonesia is an interesting place. 80% of the population is Muslim, so I’m assuming that I associate with Muslims every day. Some women cover their hair, some don’t. They are not separationist in this way- I’ve seen many examples of groups of women and girls- some with head scarves and some not- hanging out together. It’s nice to see everyone treated the same. On that same note, I don’t feel like I am looked down on or treated differently for not dressing a certain way or covering my hair. We were here on assignment with Austin’s female Muslim coworker. She does not cover her hair and said that it was a personal decision whether to do that or not. She considers herself a devout Muslim. As we spoke with each other about religion, it seemed that there were many similarities in our beliefs. We both have codes for what we should and should not put in our bodies. We both fast. We both pray. We both study scriptures. She said something interesting, “Don’t we all have the same God anyway? Regardless of what we call Him?”

After trick-or-treating in the lobby,
Austin went down to help his friend
and the hotel staff gave him a printed
picture of Landon trick-or-treating
and cookies! I highly recommend the Ritz
in Jakarta. 

My world view has changed dramatically. I think that in the US, Muslims are feared or looked down upon because of the terrorist groups that do evil things under the guise of religion. My Muslim friend called the new Islamic State group the most evil and despicable group on the face of the earth. She, and devout Muslims that are not extremists, are on our side- against murderers. Just as there are good people everywhere, there are also bad people. I’m not naive enough to not be on the lookout, especially in crowded markets where my phone or wallet could easily be stolen. But in general, it seems that everywhere we go I am floored by the kind, happy people I come in contact with. In India, our driver was Muslim. He was a wonderful man. There are amazing, devout, kind, generous, wonderful people everywhere, and from all walks of life. They come with different religions, socioeconomic statuses, and different world views, but they all show love and kindness to others in the human family. I am so grateful for this. Some may think I have noticed this because I primarily interact with hotel staff that are being paid to be nice to me. Although that may be true, I exchange smiles, hellos, and little conversations with many people on the street as well as the people in the hotel.

Elder Russell Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon church) to which I belong recently gave a talk that touched on how we should treat others of differing views. In the church recently there has been a push for sharing the gospel with others, but what about those around us that are entrenched and devout in another faith? This talk helped me to see that we can respect others’ faith and beliefs as well as share our own. He said:

“On the subject of public discourse, we should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence.” (emphasis added)

As I walk the streets of Indonesia with Landon, I find that if I have a smile and greeting for those around me, I don’t feel unsafe. I think that if we are close-minded, disagreeable or aloof in regards to those around us, it might be a different story. Although there are cultural differences, even within the same country, life goes on for everyone. We pray, we study, we play, we eat, we take care of children. As basic human beings everyone in the world has much more in common than we think. I know it’s time to have respect and kindness for everyone, even if they are different.  

Call to Prayer recorded outside our hotel. Pardon Landon’s chattering about taxis… they were coming up the driveway and he was pretty excited about it.


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