How a church in Budapest inspired the writer that tolerance and acceptance are key in safeguarding the society from sectarian war.
During my recent visit to Budapest, I visited Matthias Church the oldest church in Budapest. It was built in the 11th century, but was destroyed by the Mongol in the 12th century, and finally was rebuilt in the 15th century. I was amazed with the architecture and the design of the church. Its tower stands as a landmark in the city.
The area around the Church was busy with tour guides talking to tourists about the history of the church and the old city. However, one tour guide caught my attention as he was talking to a group of children around the age of five years old.
While talking to them I heard him say “Islam”. I was a bit surprised and was not sure why would he talk about Islam with the kids. I couldn’t stop myself from getting closer to the group to hear what he was telling them, specially that my visit to Budapest was a week after the bombing in Brussels airport. I had mixed feelings and I thought he will be talking negatively about Islam. However, I was wrong!
The guide was talking to them about the design of the church and influence of Ottoman Empire on it as they ruled the country for 160 years. He said: “Although the Church is a Christian place of worship, you will see a crescent and other Islamic symbols which were added by the Ottomans.” One of the kids asked him why those Islamic effects were not removed when the Ottomans lost power. He said: “Those are artistic pieces, it would be shameful to lose them.” The conversation ended here and the kids along with their guide started walking towards the Church.
His words came as a surprise to me and I wished that we had many people like him in the Arab world. In the recent years many historical sites in Mali, Tunisia, Iraq and Syria were destroyed and the excuse was “defending the faith”. I’m not sure how they came up with this idea, but because of this idea we have lost valuable treasures.
In a society where people come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, tolerance and acceptance are essential for the protection and development of a society. The UAE has been successful in that prospective and its efforts have been hailed by international organizations. One of the oldest examples of religious tolerance in the UAE can be found in Bur Dubai. The oldest Hindu Temple built in 1902 is located behind a mosque near the ruler’s court. It fascinates me, every time I visit the area, to see people from different backgrounds walking side by side, either going to the mosque or the temple without being worried about being judged or discriminated against.
changes in the region and the rise of sectarian conflicts require a collaborative effort by the government and society. Both citizens and residents of the UAE have a role to play in supporting government initiatives. The introduction of intercultural centre such as Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural understanding can support the society in increasing awareness and education about the importance of tolerance and acceptance. In addition, the criminalization of intolerance and discrimination are also needed.
Accepting all the good and bad about someone. It’s a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.
Sarah Dessen – What happened to Goodbye