Throughout the world, many people practice different religions. Other people call themselves “spiritual,” but don’t follow the doctrines of an organized religion. As our world becomes more global, it is important to respect each other and our different beliefs. Just as you may feel your church is perfect for you and offers all you need in your spiritual life, so others feel the same about theirs. I am very happy with my choice of religion and church, and am actively teaching my children the doctrines I believe. However, I also want to understand and respect others and for my children to do the same. I’ve incorporated these five ideas into my interactions with people of faiths different than mine.
1. Gain a basic understanding
Take opportunities to learn about other religions and their beliefs. I like to read articles and books about world religions. Knowing that Jews are still waiting for the Messiah to come is important. As the religion of Islam spreads across the world, it, sometimes, gets a bad reputation as the religion of terrorists. I feel that I should understand more about it, so I don’t misunderstand the people in my community.
Everyone on my father’s side of the family is Catholic, but I am not. Because I respect my heritage, I know some of the basic Catholic beliefs and have attended Mass. Knowledge of other religious systems will help foster respect.
2. Recognize common ground
Both Jewish and Christian faiths place great importance on the 10 commandments. As I studied the concept of life after death, I found similarities between my own beliefs and those of Muslims. You might find you have more in common with those of other faiths than you previously thought.
Like me, my daughter’s preschool teacher is a Christian. But we attend different churches. We have had great talks about the power of prayer and feeling God’s hand in our lives. These discussions have deepened our respect and love for each other, which is also a blessing.
3. Ask thoughtful questions
If you are confused about beliefs, or have questions about basic doctrines ask someone who practices that religion. You will show a sincere interest with a goal of understanding and respect. I recently talked with a Catholic friend of mine about the dress code for attending Mass. She asked me questions about the programs for teaching youth at my church.
If you seek answers via the Internet, be sure to find correct sources. For example, the official website for a church or religion will offer better answers than a website that is clearly antagonistic toward that church.
Children are naturally curious. They may ask why a man wears a turban, a woman wears a headscarf or why some people don’t attend church on Sundays. Your knowledge of others’ beliefs will help you explain why different religions do things differently and why they should respect others.
My children don’t participate in sporting events on Sunday. This is in keeping with the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. Their friends and coaches have respected their choice. Experiences like this help them to respect the religious beliefs of others, as well.
5. Always show respect and love
No matter what religion you follow; as a spiritual person you should always show respect and love for other people, even those who do not believe in God at all. God loves all of his children and wants them to be happy. Showing respect for religious beliefs of others reflects your love for God.
There are many wonderful people in the world. As you learn more about them and their religious beliefs, you will find common ground in a love of God.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.