Tolerance of others’ faiths comes through understanding

Here’s a question for you.

To what degree do you understand the key principles of the world’s major religions?

Judaism. Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism?

And how did you develop that knowledge?

Through school? Your parents? The media? Your church, perhaps? Or maybe through your own research?

I’ll put up my hand and say that when I entered my 20s, I was religiously ignorant. So ignorant.

I had almost no knowledge of religion, and it was only when I studied journalism that I began to develop a thirst for religious knowledge.

What was central to the Troubles in Ireland?

Why was the Middle East in such a mess?

Why do some Catholics not eat meat on a Friday?

And what on earth is Ramadan?

Early in the 2000s, I moved to Dublin and over the course of the next eight years, lived in Ireland and England.

And I really had to swot up on religion then.

Religion in Ireland was central to life, and later, working at Sky News in London, I realised that so much of what I was reporting on required a sound knowledge of religion – be it in the Middle East, the Russian-Chechen situation, the savage conflicts raging up the eastern coast of Africa, and central Asia too – Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Although 84 per cent of the world identifies with a faith or religion, in this secular country, we receive little or no religious education.

Some parents fear religious studies. I think they’re concerned their children will become indoctrinated.

And I was one of those parents, but I’m not anymore.

I want my son to study religion as part of his school curriculum, so that he understands it.

I want him to develop a framework by which he understand other people’s values, beliefs or traditions.

Because if he doesn’t develop that knowledge, then how will he judge the validity of claims made by the likes of social influencers, politicians and the media?

And when we don’t understand something, we fear it – right? Continue reading

  • Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB.
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