Updated: Aug 2, 2019
By Kanika Phillip
Edited by Josie Child
We live in a world where religion is all around us.
Whether we are religious or not, it shapes us all. Religion makes us who we are, it impacts our views and opinions which we have about others and in many ways, it determines how we lead our lives.
As humans we can fear the unknown.
If we don’t understand something, such as a person’s religion, we can fear it, discriminate against that person, and have hatred in our hearts. We have seen this happening as recently as the 1940s when Jews faced racism and discrimination during the Nazi regime.
People tend to react negatively or fearfully towards others when they do not understand them.
But if I don’t understand something, this is my issue, not yours! It is my responsibility to learn about your faith, do my own research and engage with real people, so that I can form a personal understanding. If I do this, there is no room for negative thoughts and connotations, and discrimination is left in the bin!
Let’s face it, that’s what it is, discrimination!
We often see religious discrimination inflicted on people in a country who are of a faith which is different to the dominant religion. For example, when I think of England, Christianity is the religion that comes to my mind. If I think of Pakistan, it’s Islam and if I think of India, I think of Hinduism.
As human beings, we naturally stereotype each other, we put each other into categories and classes and if we find out that people don’t fit into these boxes, we are often surprised and tend to shy away from them because they are the unknown. But what about the Afghanistan Sikhs, Sri Lankan Muslims or Syrian Christians? Often it is religious minorities like these who have the least support. People often do not know they exist, or discriminate against them because they see them as different, less important or superior to them.
We end up stereotyping people with dangerous labels, for example, say the word ‘terrorist’ and instantly many people think of Muslims. Yet real followers of Islam, often the ones who appear the most visible (for example, women who wear the Hijab) bear the negativity and backlash. This is often why the everyday lives of civilians have been turned upside down, why people like the Syrians have had their country torn apart and lives destroyed. This is one of the reasons why so many children have been displaced, as the actions of malicious people have impacted the lives of innocent people. Islam is a religion of peace, yet it has been manipulated for political purposes, resulting in widespread fear and negative connotations.
The Awareness Foundation builds peace through empowering people in the Middle East and the West to use their faith for the betterment of the world. Their ‘Little Heroes’ programme is a great example of how they are achieving this goal, as it has enabled them to bring back hope to over 2,000 displaced Syrian children, through helping them to regain their life.
These are the people who need our help, their stories need to be told and their voices need to be heard, because they matter, just like me and you! No matter what faith you are, we are taught to love one another, are we not?
Are we all not God’s children?
Jesus taught his followers to “love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and to “do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
We need to open our hearts more, be less judgmental and less fearful. It is important to support the people who are within a minority religion in whatever ways we can, so that they face less discrimination and know that they are not alone. By supporting them, we can enable them to rebuild their lives and live in peace, not fear. So, for me, love should always win, as love is within us all.