When I reflect on the incidents last week involving students who wore offensive shirts with anti-Muslim statements on them in Gainesville, Florida, I cannot help but to think of Jonathan Swift’s quote, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” I don’t agree with Swift, though. All we have to do is observe how no local company in Gainesville, Florida would agree to print the T-shirts.
Living and traveling in many countries around the world, my firsthand experiences—of residing within other cultures and with people of different value systems—have given me a deep awareness of the essential need to understand world religions. Taking a quick look at history, we notice that many “conflicts” have come from disparities between religions and throughout the world today disputes still exist stemming from different religious beliefs. Even now, it’s hard not to notice a lack of awareness and respect for all religions.
Ever wonder why these misunderstandings arise? What makes for this deep-seated discord? Where do the tensions come from historically, geographically and politically? What aspects of people’s beliefs cause these controversies? A quote I do agree with is Mohandas K. Gandhi’s, “A friendly study of the world's religions is a sacred duty.”
I invite you and your students to begin explorations on the essential questions: What is religion? What does religious practice mean to different people?
"Taking a Closer Look at Religions Around the World" and the two accompanying handouts—Discovering Similarities Between Religions and Collaborating to Resolve Religious Issues — provide some engaging classroom activities and projects to assist you in the class.
Additionally, if you are considering or planning to start a world religions curriculum at your school, I recommend reading these “10 Tips for Starting a World Religions Curriculum.”
I would love to hear how these activities/projects work and your experiences with teaching tolerance and respect for all religions in your classes.