I’m writing this as I finish an Open University module. The previous module which I studied was called ‘Introducing Religions’. It was a fascinating course and made all the more interesting because I had an excellent tutor, Father Tony Jordan who was Priest at St Hugh’s, Eyres Monsell. I signed up for the course thinking that with my background knowledge it would be relatively easy, how wrong I was! It’s true, I certainly had a head start on the other students in my group when we looked at Christianity, but as we moved on to look at Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism I began to think that my Christian perspective was perhaps a disadvantage. It is very easy to look at other traditions through the eyes of our own, which can leave us with a very distorted picture. It is very easy to make assumptions about other people’s lives and faith.
What struck me in reading about other faiths are some of the common themes. There is huge diversity in all the great world faiths. In some cases and at some times this diversity can be respected and lived with, and in other times and places it leads to division and even violence. We are appalled at the violence within Islam as Shiite and Sunni Muslims contend for supremacy, equally we are shocked at the bloodthirsty actions committed in the name of Islam. Yet we all too easily forget the conflicts that existed between Protestant and Catholic parts of our own Christian faith just a few centuries ago. The other common factor between all the great faiths is the lack of consistency between the ideals and the practice. We know that well enough in our own lives. So often we don’t manage to be the kind of people that we know God intends us to be. As Christians we know that in Jesus Christ we can find forgiveness and we thank God for his ‘Amazing Grace’ that restores us and renews us and makes our relationship with him right again. For me, the knowledge of a forgiving and redeeming God is the most precious thing in the world.
Yours in Christ