“The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people”
Throughout history, humankind has witnessed the power of diversity when different cultures and religions came in contact – for instance, the increased contact with the Islamic world in the muslim-occupied regions of Spain and Sicily, the Crusades, the Reconquista, the increased contact with the Byzantine Empire, Venice’s trading with the Arab world etc – it all contributed to the ending of the Dark Ages and the flourishing of one of the most important periods for the human thought – the Renaissance.
In the whirling process of globalization - diversity of people, cultures, religions, races is inevitable. Embracing diversity enables us to experience new things and different perspectives, it enables us to learn, grow, become more tolerant and genuinely love all human beings. But in order to truly grow, we must be open to experiencing different people, cultures and viewpoints firsthand. For example, most of the major religions promote peace and love, yet there is so much sectarian violence portrayed in the media, resulting in stereotypes and bias. In this activity, we encourage you to talk to people with a belief system different from your own and experience things firsthand from another perspective!
Experiential/Group or Individual
1 - 2 hours
To learn how to value cultural diversity
To experience and understand other religions, worldviews, and belief systems different from one’s own (including atheist belief systems)
To learn how to see things from a different perspective
Pick a different religion you would like to understand better and find a local house of worship that you can visit (the only requirement is that it is different from your own). Even if you are an atheist, try visiting a religious house as the purpose is not conversion, but simply to familiarize yourself with the beliefs and perspectives of others.
Research how that religion is practiced in such a religious house, what the appropriate behaviours for visiting are, as well as some level of historical background for the religion you intend to experience.
Try to fully immerse yourself in the experience once you make your visit. For example, in a mosque join others who are sitting on the floor and praying, or in a Catholic church, consider going to a confessional and talking to a priest, as well as participating in Mass.
Respect the rules the specific house of worship has. For example, in a Synagogue people are expected to cover their heads with a specific head cover and/or prayer shawl; outside a mosque people are expected to remove their shoes and perform ritual washing etc. Make sure you do some research in advance so as not to offend anyone by not complying with rules that you were unaware of.
Inspect religious writings on the walls of the house of worship, read printed material that may be available, and try to learn more about the religion through your visit. Begin to observe similarities with and differences from your own religion, beliefs, philosophy, worldview.
If it’s appropriate and does not interrupt or interfere with people’s practices, speak with local practitioners of the religion. In some institutions, people will be very eager to speak about their religion. Also if possible, talk to a local priest, rabbi, imam, or other religious leader to get an even better understanding of the religion.
If you are practicing a religion, instead of talking to a person from another religion, you can also try talking to an atheist/agnostic, to learn more about their worldview. Feel free to voice your religious views during the discussion, but try not to be condescending or “preach”; remember, the purpose is not to convert anyone, but gain more understanding about their views and become more accepting of diversity. Deep listening is advised.
How did you feel about this experience?
Did you learn something new about the given religion? Or about atheism?
Do you feel closer to the friends you have of a different (a)religious background?
What differences and similarities did you observe in the house of worship you visited from your own or other religions you are familiar with?
Most religions have peace and love for all beings as their core essence. Consider how humans misinterpret these pure messages, leading to bias, separation, and even violence.
Instructions for Submission
Write a short description of approximately 200 words, reflecting on your experience and upload it. Instructions on how to upload a picture in Moodle or submit your written reflection can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading
Instructions for Assessment
Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback
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