A cartoon shows a pair of dog turning their backs on an exhibition about cats one of them remarks, ‘I didn’t like it’. I think we can all see a common human trait in that cartoon dog that automatically discounts any story told by or about cats. As soon as we hear something about another ethnic group, or about another faith or culture or we come across something unfamiliar. We pretend there is no relevance in it for us. Consequently we erect barriers around ourselves, which unless broken will lead to prejudice and unfair discrimination.
Last term I suggested to teachers at the Islamia School that we take children to visit the local Gurdawara and the church. This was met with some resistance, what’s the point was one comment. However, when they came back from the visit they could not stop talking about how wonderful the experience was. They were really good people, the way they welcomed us and so on. The moral is that a familiarity leads to friendship, and removes the misunderstandings and the myths about the other, the fear and the dread of the other.
Being open minded not only widens our horizons but also helps in building bridges across cultural and religious gulfs.
Let us Pray, O Lord! O Opener of hearts and minds help us to understand the other, to receive the stranger with confidence and love.