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I wanted to provide commentary on the issue with our views of religious diversity, and how opening up to conversation can create a safer environment for people of all ages to begin to understand and accept each others' cultures and backgrounds.
I completely relate to this story. I grew up in a small town which was majority Italian/ (Roman) Catholic. We had very few other Religions. I was a minority being Protestant. It just seemed so odd as to never have an honest dialogue. Thankfully, I did move to other parts of the country that were more diverse and/ or were more open to dialogue. I still find that silence and assuming to be true even within the same religious groups.
It is assumed one votes for the same people or has the same exact theological beliefs. Conversation is discouraged.
We need to be able to share, grow, listen and learn if we are ever to build relationships with one another.
I'm surprised to read that your family is Buddhist. So is mine. I don't really know anyone else who is, although that is likely for the same reason that you discuss in your article. When I was very little, I knew other kids' religions - Christian, mostly Jewish in my area - but I didn't know what my own religion was even called, because no one ever talked about it. In 5th grade, I moved to a new school (by now, knowing that my family was Buddhist). One class, a student mentioned that his father recently switched to Buddhism. The teacher quickly asked the class, "Is anyone here Buddhist?" I didn't say anything. I was new and shy, and quite curious what they would say if they didn't think anyone could hear. The result? The kid described his dad's devotion to "ridiculous idols" and made fun of the religion. And the teacher joined in laughing and mocking Buddhism. After that, I never told anyone I was Buddhist. It's not just me, I think. My brother tells anyone who asks that he is agnostic. I just shrug and say that I keep an open mind.
I felt that way for the longest time. I never understood why my family never talked about their religion, while other kids in school were so open about theirs. I think it really comes down to culture - both Buddhist culture and my family's Chinese/Fujianese culture - that kept me silent for so long.
Having an open mind is so important when it comes to religion, especially when approaching unfamiliar faiths, and even those who are agnostic or atheist.
I entirely agree. As a sidenote, I visited your website - you do a lot! Many of my friends attended StuyHacks in the past year (I had a conflict and couldn't go unfortunately) and heard it was a great success. So thank you for organizing that and for all that you do!
Sharon Lin is a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science and Applied Mathematics.
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@Virginia Dickens what do you think?
I've learned to walk away from those that intend to bring me down.