As I’m sure anybody reading this is, I am feeling sad and confused about what is happening in Afghanistan.
This isn't a political piece but I have overheard some very cruel statements recently, and because these are not good for anyone, or for the wellbeing of the world, I wanted to write a little about my own understanding and experience of the Islamic religion.
In India, I became friends with a number of Kashmiri people, all Muslims.
These people had been forced to flee their beloved, war-ravaged homeland some years earlier in search of work, and they were sending the proceeds from their businesses back to the families they had left behind.
As they talked, I imagined a caravan of refugees travelling across borders, eventually setting up temporary homes in a place where reactions to their arrival were often unwelcoming and cold.
I experienced many traumatic events during my time at the orphanage including terrifying flash floods and the injuries that resulted.
These people helped me, a white women travelling alone, and the girls I was living with, all either Hindu or Christian by birth. I will always be grateful to them.
In religious education classes at school, I remember learning about Jesus, about the different kinds of love that Ghandi, a Hindu, advocated, and drawing a picture of the Jewish Menorah.
I don’t remember learning anything at all about Islam, the second biggest religion in the world.
In fact, I think my awareness way back then was limited to Cassius Clay's name change to Muhammad Ali.
As I’m sure you do, I remember where I was on September 11, 2001, a day when the whole world changed.
It wasn’t until some months later, when I watched the episode of The West Wing entitled Isaac and Ishmael that I started to understand who Al Qaeda are, and that in terms of numbers and extreme views they, like the Taliban and ISIS, are to the Islamic religion as the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity.
I suppose what I really want to do this week is ask anybody reading this to keep an open mind and educate yourself before you judge a huge percentage of the global population based on the actions of a relatively small number of people.
Perhaps try to remember that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all Abrahamic religions.
Their stories all have the same early chapters and the same characters. One of the foremost symbols of each of these religions is the star, which is, of course, also used in popular culture to represent hopes, dreams and wishes.
The Northern Star was bright this week, shining out beside the fullest of moons.
As I left work I looked up and made a wish, wondering what I can do to help.
Charity giving is a difficult area, because it’s so hard to know whether donations will make it to the people they are intended for.
One organisation I have faith in is called Together Rising.
They are now working with local groups on the ground in Afghanistan to try to help. You can find out more at www.togetherrising.org.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Islamic religion, I recommend reading Pakistan, a Personal History by Imran Khan, and anything by the 13th century poet Rumi, whose beautiful words are now widely quoted across the world.
Perhaps one thing we can all do is make a wish, for change, for peace, and for a day when the one thing that is at the heart of every religion, love, will prevail.
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