Apr 5, 2019

What can religion teach us about good neighbourliness?

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Kenya is a predominantly Christian nation with a significant portion of Muslims. Hence we are a religious country. These and other faiths can all teach us invaluable lessons on good neighbourliness and interactions with strangers. This is because the major religions of the world can be distilled down to universal virtues for living a good life.

Religion can teach us how to partake intolerance. We are varied in terms of our lifestyles, religion, preferences, race and ethnicity. The dominant religion teaches us of loving each other and being kind despite our differences. Hence, we can tolerate our neighbours using these seminal principles perpetuated by our various faiths regarding tolerance and good neighbourliness. It is not a new concept; rather it has been practiced for centuries in the east bearing much success with cultures like the Hindu, Buddhists, Muslims and Malay coexisting together in peace in the same geographical landscape.

All religions share the golden rule which can act as a moral compass to guide our interactions with neighbours. It states that treat others like you would want to be addressed. This rule is found in religions such are Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Taoism. An example is a quote from the Islamic Sunnah which states, “no one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” Accordingly, the active application of this value will see us intentionally resist from doing any harmful activities to our fellow men. It will also help take actions to prevent anything terrible from being perpetrated towards them under our watch. Such sentiments when echoed by the various religious heads can help promote good neighbourliness in the community. It can be applied even in the secular settings in the form of empathy which is a core human skill in social life.

Moreover, there is a strong emphasis on religion for people to endeavour for the happiness of others especially the underprivileged in the society. The Bible, for example, encourages people to take concern with the less fortunate. “If…there is a needy person among you…do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather, you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs. For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy…”

This insight is very similar to the one discussed above. However, it has an emphasis on being charitable. Research indicates there is significant fulfillment in life from giving and sharing. Hence the most successful people in life are always found engaging in activities that enhance the lives of others. Through encouraging the selflessness taught in religions, we can have better and more fulfilled interactions with those around us.

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