It's been said that if you want to keep the peace at a meal, holiday or otherwise, don't bring up religion or politics.
However, as we approach the end of an especially violent year in the world, I'm sure I am not alone in saying we do need to talk--and learn--more about the religious preferences of others.
Put another way, if there ever was a time to broaden our religious horizons, it's now.
The following will provide a glimpse into special days of various religions. While religious observances occur throughout the year, this is a sample of recent ones in 2015, plus holy days/holidays scheduled for January 2016:
- Diwali, festival of lights, November 11 (Hinduism)
- Hanukkah, festival of lights, December 7-14 (Judaism)
- Mawlid an-Nabi, December 24, birthday of the prophet Muhammad (Islam, but not universally celebrated)
- Christmas, December 25, the birth of Jesus Christ, and Mary, Mother of God, January 1 (Christianity)
- Kwanzaa, December 26-January 1 (African-Americans and the world African community)
- Feast of the Epiphany (Theophany), January 6 (Orthodox Christianity)
- Mahayana New Year, January 24 (Buddhism)
Not to sound too preachy, but it takes effort to acquire understanding and empathy, to stare down a fear of the unknown. To improve and promote communication between people of different faiths, we need to cross that line, to take a risk.
To this end, I urge you to do at least one thing in this new year to learn about a religion with which you are unfamiliar. That's whether you belong to a particular religion or not.
If you do belong to a church, how about suggesting the formation of a discussion group to learn about another religion? Or, attend one service of another faith in your community, or a town nearby?
If you do not feel comfortable with either, how about checking out a book or item in another format from the Des Plaines Public LIbrary about a faith that has bothered, confounded or puzzled you?
There's plenty of books and other resources at DPPL from which to choose.
At our library, the adult nonfiction section of religion books that can be checked out, located on the fourth floor, numbers approximately 4,300. This includes the portion that pertains to world religions. In addition, if you like, look up religion in the Reference section while you're on this floor.
Also, our library has available for checkout, religious fiction books, plus religion-related audio-visual fiction and nonfiction. All are located on the third, or adult popular materials, floor.
Don't forget about the religious magazines and newspapers on the third floor, or the books in the high school section. Or, religion books on the second floor, home to Youth Services.
Public desk staff on the second, third and fourth floors can direct you to their respective materials, as well as assist you in going online.
Speaking of online, for starters, you might want to digest the following:
- "How Many People of Different Faiths Do You Know?"
- What Can Christians Learn from Other Religions?
- Understanding Other Religious Beliefs
Between the print and online sources of information, you just might be intrigued by what you find, and find out.