Tonight is the beginning of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. As I have been preparing for this holiday it has caused me to reflect on the religious celebrations, religious icons, and religious devotion we have seen around the world. For my traveling Tuesday post today I thought I would take some time to explain our witnessing of one worshiper who made me think about the interactions of the different religions.
It is a sad reality of our world that the mixing of religions, or the mixing of people from different religions often causes strife and discomfort, and sometimes causes violence and calamity. In Vietnam there are many religions and many gods. According to the communist government the country is 73% atheist, but that statistic seems way out line with reality. Many people there are Buddhist, some are Catholic, but most people that we saw seemed to subscribe to older beliefs. These beliefs involve the worship of gods and goddess who represent things like the sun, moon, land, mountains, and even the kitchen.
While traveling in Vietnam we saw a woman praying she was holding Buddhist prayer beads , performing prostrations before a statue of Jesus. My first thought was to think of the irony that missionaries had come to this country and introduced this new religion, and that while people professed belief, that belief did not look like what the missionaries wanted. But in retrospect I think this woman represents the ideal of religious acceptance. She comes from a land of many gods and I imagine that when the missionaries came that had a conversation that went something like this “ We have a god you should believe in his name is Jesus Christ” .
The women questioned, “ What does he stand for?”
“Jesus died for your sins and believes in mercy and peace for all”.
I image that the women responded “Oh, I like those things I will believe in him too” .
Our religions teach that there is one and only one god and I often believe that people simply pray to different faces of the same god. But this woman made me realize that if there is room in her heart for so many gods, there must be room in our hearts, if not for many gods, then at least for the people who believe in every god.
I have added some ( many) photos of religious places and icons from Vietnam.