Angelia Shi

Junior, Santa Catalina School
This essay is one of four winners of the 2020 High School Essay Contest of the World Affairs Council of the Monterey Bay Area

Our Future — A Religious Melting Pot

When I was eight years old, I served pork to my friend who is Muslim. I had no idea that Muslims believe pigs are their ancestors and that therefore eating pork is forbidden by their faith. I still remember the tears and the redness from anger on her face. As a young child, this loss of friendship from my lack of comprehension of her faith made me naively fearful of meeting others from different religions.

Years later, I realize that the lack of understanding of my friend’s belief is such a small issue compared to world conflicts motivated by different religious beliefs. In a world with 4200 religions, adding interfaith components to the education system is what I would like to change. Not only seeing inadequate understanding of religions as a factor causing global conflicts but also my desire to work for the United Nations, I decided to take World Religions class and Peace and Justice class in high school. I learned so much both from the lectures on religions and the conversations with my classmates who hold varying beliefs.

Now, I make sure to use different utensils to get meat and vegetables for the convenience of my Hindu friends. I listen closely to the prayer my friend Gracie reads when lighting the candles for Hanukkah, and I stop at the door when my Buddhist friend Fatemah is meditating before lights out to give her peace and quietness. Even small actions like these are appreciated greatly in a diverse community. One small bandage to try to heal both microlevel and macrolevel wounds is to educate students like me in religious tolerance and diversity. Interfaith education is necessary to help people understand others’ beliefs. However, mistakes similar to serving pork to Muslims continue to happen all around the world.

One effective way is to add general religions class and the impacts of different religious groups globally into each curriculum. Similar to studying abroad programs, exchanging students into various religious communities can also give them a taste of interfaith education. More widely, publications can include more articles and news on different religions or from authors who have distinct religious beliefs. Even with baby steps, this world is on the path of improvement.