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Team Turkey’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 21 Aug 2008

MapFood for thought…

İ have learnt a lot since being on this holiday. I would like to share my thoughts with anyone reading this site.

I am not a religious person; neither is my husband, children, parents, brothers, uncles and many of my inlaws. However I fully respect everyone in the world who follows a religious belief, following the teachings of Buddha or prophets and those who believe in God.

Personally (and perhaps speaking for other members of my family), I do not need to believe in anything or follow a particular religion to be happy or to lead a moralistic life, and I do not believe in life after death.

Please excuse my ignorance but the following is what I have learnt during the past couple of weeks.

The main thing that I have learnt is that the Christian God is exactly the same God as both the Muslim God and the Jewish God. At the beginning (futher back than 2000 BC) there was Judaism and from this, Christianity developed after the birth of Jesus. In the 7th century Islam began. The main difference seems to be that in Islam, although Muslims believe in the validity of the teachings of Jesus, they follow the teachings of the prophet Mohammed because his teachings which follow a similar line to those of Jesus were more recent and therefore, to them, more valid. Also they do not believe that Jesus is the son of God, but rather, like Mohammed, was born naturally from the physical union of a man and woman. Muslims believe in the afterlife but instead of the Christian ‘Heaven’ they call it ‘Paradise’. It appears that this is the same place (maybe the food is different…more spicey…and oily for the Muslims!)! The Jews are going there too…but I don’t know what there 'Heaven' or 'Paradise' is called!

Apparently the angel, Gabriel, came to Mohammed and revealed the Quoran (Koran). The same angel, that is, Gabriel, also came to Mary and told her she was pregnant. So it seems that although there are some fundamental differences, there seems to be a common thread between these two religions. In Judaism, they believe the Torah (their Bible or Koran) was actually written by God.

Having gained this knowledge, I am now thinking that if Jews, Christians and Muslims recognised that their individual ‘God’ is one and the same, perhaps there would be greater tolerance, harmony and peace between peoples of the world. I think a lot of Christians believe their God is a different God to the Muslim God because the Muslims call there’s Allah. But in fact Allah is an Arabic word that simply means God.

When you stop and think about it, how can there be more than one God (if there is one at all!)…more than one almighty all knowing, all seeing entity? As I see it, the main difference is the way these religions are practised.

The following is an example of the way religion is practised: The Muslims are divided into Shiite and Suni. The women who dress all in black are often Shiites and wear these clothes as they are still mourning the death of Ali, the grandson of Mohammed, who was killed in battle in the 7th Century. When we were in Aleppo, Syria we saw so many women dressed this way (around 30%). In Damascus, the capital, maybe there were around 10%. Mostly they are the older women. Many Muslim women cover just their heads with (often beautiful) scarves or they cover up their whole bodies either for cultural reasons and/or religeous ones (interpretation of the Koran). Some women cover up or wear scarves by choice…others because they are pressured by the males of their families.

We were privaleged to visit two enormously significant mosques in Damascus, Syria. One mosque, where Sunnis worship, contained the shrine of the beheaded head of John the Baptist (and this mosque was visited by the Catholic Pope…so the Catholics believe his head is in the mosque!). The other mosque, where Shiites worship, contained the shrine of the body of a 5 year old girl, Sayidda Roquida, the grand daughter of Ali (related to Mohammed), who supposedly died of grief when viewing Ali’s body after he was killed in battle. The women at this mosque were almost all dressed in black. They gathered around the shrine holding onto the metal cage surrounding it, praying, wailing and crying…as though it contained the body of their own child. One woman who spoke to us and learned of Maree’s deafness, told Maree very kindly that if she prayed here, perhaps she would hear again. Maree told me previously that she was told a similar thing at her own Baptiste church. So the differences may not be all that great. While Maree felt overwhelmed by this experience because it was vastly different to her own religious practises, I felt so privaleged to witness the depths of feelings by my fellow human beings and felt honoured to be accepted and among them at this very revered place.

So, in conclusion, if religous groups and religious individuals believed that there is only one God that is shared between the religions of the world, and tolerated the beliefs and practices of these religions then surely there would be greater understanding, tolerance, and peace between nations...and individuals. Why do people or religions believe that their God is bigger or better and that their religious practıces are superior to other groups? Surely this would be religious snobbery at its worst! I personally do not need a God to believe in. I believe in the power of people, both as individuals and as groups and the goodness of mankind.

I hope you enjoyed my commentary…and hope it gave you 'food for thought'! If anyone would like to comment I would be very happy…either to be corrected or to share other’s viewpoints.

So now I am off for a swim in the beautiful, warm torquoise-coloured Mediterranean. Arrrr…pure bliss!!!