Monday, 9 April 2012
Living near neighbors from a different culture
Our first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion,
Is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy,
Else we may find ourselves treading on someone's dream.
More serious still, we may forget...
That God was there before our arrival."
Having good neighbors is a significant factor in the ability of the contemporary urban family to enjoy peace and contentment in their own home. Adjacent families may differ in size, in customs, in race or religion, but this should in no way hinder one household's ability to interact successfully with the other and to enjoy a mutually enjoyable friendship.
The key ingredient in this relationship must be respect. Most belief systems have ancient and honorable origins. Adherents of different religions have unique and well-defined customs and rituals through which they express their faith. Good neighbors will honor these traditions and never by word or deed ridicule or disparage them in any way.
In order to do this effectively, it will be necessary to learn the basic beliefs and practices that are important to the neighboring family. On which day of the week do they observe the Sabbath? What are the special holy seasons in their faith and how are they observed? Are there any dietary restrictions for members of their religion?
Research may be done at the local library, on the Internet, or by talking to a neighboring family member with whom you have established a comfortable rapport. However, your research should be done sooner rather than later, before you've unwittingly offended a new Jewish neighbor by inviting his family over for a brunch of bacon and eggs. There are many similar faux pas which well-intentioned, but ill-informed new neighbors might commit.
It will also be necessary to share your knowledge and tolerant, respectful attitude with your children. Young people can be thoughtless and even cruel when faced with concepts and practices they do not understand. As you wouldn't want your religion to become the focus of childish or adolescent jests, be on guard lest your neighbor experience this type of disrespect from the younger members of your own family.
You will do your offspring a tremendous favor by modeling for them the proper way to interact with others, in the diverse societies they will encounter in the future. With advances in travel, in communication technology, and immigration policies, the world already resembles a global village more with each passing year. The next generation will interact and conduct business with people of other lands and other faith traditions which we have only glimpsed through the mediums of television or motion pictures. They will have to learn tolerance or something even better...
"Let us not speak of tolerance. This negative word implies grudging concessions by smug consciences. Rather, let us speak of mutual understanding and mutual respect."
Father Dominique Pire
Those who follow Father Pire's philosophy will surely be able to live peaceably and happily, in harmony with neighbors of different belief systems in the society of the future.