There is a slight chance some will find this post offensive. I can only hope that is not the case. I am about to touch on the topic of cultures and religions, something I was sure would never be mentioned on the blog due to the obvious sensitivity of the matter. However, this piece is based on my own experiences and thoughts, as a mother and individual and something that happened to me recently. I am not here to tell you what you should or should not believe in. Far from it. I believe the world is beautiful due to the mixture that exists, more so in terms of culture than religion. It seems though, that my view is not shared by all, something I am completely aware of. Then there’s the matter of hate and extreme, which again I am aware of but do not and will never understand. When it hits too close to home, I cannot remain quiet anymore.
This post stems from a conversation I had with a mother of two. Touching on the subject of schools and private vs public during an afternoon waxing appointment, somehow religion got in the way.
‘I find it disgusting that children no longer say their prayers at school,’ said the woman. I had no idea. I remember prayer being a vital part of the morning school ritual. During my school years in London and Cyprus, prayer assembly or singing hymns always came first thing. Until that moment, I naively assumed it was a spiritual tradition adopted by all schools.
‘It’s because of this horrible mix of religions that’s overtaking our schools,’ she added without a hint of guilt. ‘Why should my child be torn away from his religious beliefs because of others? I can’t believe the state supports something like this.’ It then dawned on me that I was dealing with a form of hate and it pains me that it was coming from a person of my generation, and moreover, a parent. She went on to blame her child’s lack of religious induction on the assortment of religions that now exists in our community. I then recalled a moment when another mother I had once met declared how worried she was that her son may become friends with a boy from his class called Abdul. I desperately searched for answers when I was faced with this remark. There were no answers that could justify it. SHE could not give me any answers that could justify her ‘worries’. All she would say was that in the end, it all comes down to religion and she was happy that her son reported to her on the first day that he was not friends with anyone who had an ‘unusual name’. A sigh of relief.
‘I don’t think the state should encourage or support ANY religion,’ I explained calmly to the first. ‘Children should be able to freely make a choice without coercion.’ To which I received a reply that went something like this: ‘Oh, you’re one of THOSE.’ I realised there was no point on discussing the matter any further but her words felt like a hammer shattering my hopes that my child can grow up in a world where diversity is welcomed and embraced.
I actually admire people with deep-rooted religious beliefs. Sometimes I think it would be easier to believe in one God, one book, one religion. Everything would be so much more simple. But I chose to believe in love and kindness and make a crucial point of embedding this in my child’s being, above anything else. In my mind, the aforementioned mothers are no different to the people committing religious crimes all over the world, raising children to believe not only in one God but to vilify the rest. Georgie is currently part of a class made up of five different cultures and perhaps that many religions. I couldn’t be happier. He and all children, who attend both private and public schools, are mirrors of society, where people from all walks of life coexist, most times, in peace. Our children do not ponder on the different skin colours, they do not believe that goodness or evil springs from the way we pray or not. Unless they are told. Instinct and purity beget nothing but care for mummy and daddy and the love they feel for them; they play, they laugh and chose sides based on popularity, common interests, toy planes and Barbie dolls. We cannot afford to consider this a cliche. Unconditional love is not a cliche. Let us instill love in their hearts for every single living being on this planet. How can that be wrong?
I’ll end this post with a quote by Maya Angelou:
Hate: it has caused a lot of problems in this world but it has not solved one yet.
An update on the matter since I wrote this last week: Following a little journalistic research I discovered that most schools DO include prayer in their morning routine. I’m curious, do yours?