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Respecting the Religion of Your Brother

It really did not matter which one of the muezzins woke me up. The melodic reciting of a call to prayer from one of the minarets at 4:45 in the morning on the next to last day of the Holy Month of Ramadan floated from one of the many mosques surrounding the Holiday Inn in the Western part of Amman, Jordan.

Soon, I was asleep again, even though it seemed that the call to prayer was endless. It was still before sunrise. And tired, I wondered, “why was he doing it at such an ungodly hour?

But then my head gave in to a bit of an early morning reflection. Just like with any other varieties of life, cultivating an open mind allows acceptance of diversity. That’s what I like to experience in my global village.

“So, sleeping and dreaming will come soon enough,” I said aloud to myself.

As a participant of a consultation on “Teaching Respect for Religion” my Amman experience was a valuable lesson. My own lesson. The hosts – The Arab Bridge Centre for Human Rights and Development – did not have to argue how tolerant the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is. After all, churches and mosques frequently coexist next to each other with only a fence providing a gentle reminder of different. What matters is that being a Jordanian yields respect, even acceptance, for your brother’s or sister’s religion.

A few phrases from the Meeting of Experts of the International Association of Religious Liberty (IRLA) stood out in my mind.

I say ‘no’ to tolerance. Instead, I call for ‘mutual acceptance’

– former Ambassador of Jordan to the United Nations

We are all in a global classroom and a part of education for good or for bad.

– Dr. Gunnar Stalsett, Bishop Emeritus of Oslo, and vice chairman of the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee

In America, we have an incomplete view of religious liberty.

– Mitch Tyner, Esq, from IRLA.

The Amman conversation spoke plainly about what makes or breaks social harmony. Without a decisive practice in the realm of commonly held values in any milieu, we will not halt the effect of an erosion of such values, irrespective of a religious tradition that guards them.

The current European experiment with social interaction and freedom in the midst of secularism does not bode well for the nurture that Christian tradition seems to claim for itself. When the human person, and his or her dignity, ceases to be at the center of human interaction, the loser is always the humanity itself.

Is there room for an option that would allow respect to be circumvented by some other lofty ideal? Respect should always walk hand-in-hand with the acceptance of one’s identity and the professed truth. Authentic religion calls for a respect, sensitivity and acceptance of another’s beliefs and practices. Do unto others. . .the saying goes.

Last week, there was a moment when all participants of the Amman conversation were feeling the effect of a call by an obscure Pentecostal clergyman in Florida to burn the Qur’an. It was a media-driven stunt and it worked. Such an expression of hatred and intolerance could have unleashed an avalanche of violent repercussions across the globe.

But, the rhetoric of hatred and an atmosphere of fear is not what creates peace and respect. Thus, the Amman exchange of views and expression of shared values was timely, to say the least.

As I listened to my muezzin calling the faithful to pray according to an Islamic tradition, I thought that such a “wake up call” was actually timely. For myself. I was invited into a religious moment with my brothers and sisters in Jordan.

In spite of the ungodly morning hour, was this a call to understanding?


Adventist News Network released a story on these meetings: Teach young people respect for different faiths, panel of experts advises.

See photos, including more from the cropped image above, from Ray’s adventures on his blog at Pushing the Borders, where this reflection was originally published.

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