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Peace week offers insight

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Jennifer Contreras, Guest Columnist

Jennifer Contreras, Guest Columnist

I do not ascribe to any organized religion. While my family is Catholic, I have chosen to be a religiously and spiritually independent soul. I follow my own set of beliefs and values and, contrary to popular belief, I am not going to hell ­ whatever hell is. I am perfectly fine with my choice; in fact I prefer this route as opposed to being limited to the beliefs of one religion. Instead, I am allowed to appreciate and give credence to the beliefs and practices of all religions.

In keeping with this approach, last Wednesday (as a part of Peace Week) I participated in two religious traditions, and in doing so I was reminded of why faith is so important to people and how people forget how similar we all are.

After the walkout for peace on Wednesday afternoon, Campus Minister Debbie Roberts offered ash in the Catholic tradition of Ash Wednesday. When I was younger, my mother took me to receive ash all the time. However, I had not accepted ash in years. The reason that I decided to accept it last week was because of the words Debbie shared. She said that it is a reminder that we as human beings are not free of sin and that we are not immortal. These are two things I think people often ignore.

I thought to myself, how can anyone justify killing other human beings when we are all guilty of the same crimes? My thoughts were echoed in a statement made by one of my fellow students at the walkout, she said regarding pending war with Iraq, “How can Christians justify killing people? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

As the day progressed I found myself frustrated with the world. We all want the same things out of life, so why don’t we understand each other?

That evening I attended the Model Seder. In the Jewish tradition, the Seder is a celebration of the Passover. They observe the anniversary of the night God delivered them from slavery. The night is full of ritual and symbolism ­ every detail is beautifully significant.

Like I said before, I do not belong to any organized religion. But my curiosity led me to that dinner, and I learned so much. While reading the passages and singing the songs that accompany the Seder, my eyes swelled up and tears rolled out. It was powerful and beautiful.

But my tears were mostly filled with frustration and sadness. Most of us have faiths that are rooted in the ideas of peace, whether it is an organized religion or your own idea of religion. Now my questions come: why do we need to be such vengeful people? Why do we need to seek revenge and call it justice? Why do we need to fight with our neighbors just because they attend a different church? How do we forget that we are all connected and that we are all human?

I am not a religious person in any way, but when I look at the world I see that religion is the constant that both holds people together and tears people apart. Now if only we all believed that truly ascribing to a faith, is to truly follow the underlying point to the whole thing. This point, I believe, is that there are no faiths better than the next, and that they are all similar in many ways.

So to all the people out there fighting for faiths, space and resources ­Israel and Palestine, The United States and Iraq (a Christian Bush Administration versus Saddam Hussein) ­ it is self-defeating to disregard the importance of the other by fighting. War is truly not the answer. War is not healthy for children and other living things. War kills faith. War kills peace.

Jennifer Contreras, a senior journalism major, is former editorial director for the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at kinipela_peace@yahoo.com.

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