One God, So Many Stories

Having the opportunity to live smack in the middle of another culture has meant we’ve often found ourselves jumping feet first into the ceremonies and religions of those around us. Invitations to family and religious celebrations have been offered in various different forms. The children have brought home crafts from school explaining what they’ve learnt about various holidays. Often we haven’t even had to leave the house to see something new.

In Malaysia, I sat heavily pregnant on my front porch, watching the rituals that came with the death of a Chinese buddhist neighbour. Three days of visitors and bright colourful displays had me sitting in wonder. People arrived by the bus load, really, there were busses. It turned out our neighbours employed enough people to fill a football field, they all came.

In just about every location there’s been either a temple, mosque or church across the road from our house. In Houston I discovered that Christianity is alive and thriving, the church on our street required additional traffic police to direct the four different services in their Sunday best. Here in Qatar, I sit at my desk each day and watch the same group of men make their way to the mosque fifty metres from our back door.

And when you find yourself at the company dinner with the dietary requirements of five different religions, you begin to match up the similarities more than the differences. Abraham versus Ibrihim, Lent versus Ramadam, the headwear of a nun versus the headwear of an ethiopian woman at church, versus the headwear of a muslim. One God, so many stories.

The excitement of Eid Al Adha was brewing within the community this week. We’ve celebrated Eid in four different homes now, Indonesia, Malaysia, Libya and now in Qatar.  There’s been a mass exodus from the country as people use the days away from work to travel, we’ve spent every Eid here, it’s our beach, sleep in, purge our cupboards and get organized holiday. There’s a couple of days where the city seems to almost shut down – peace.

The youngest little traveller arrived home from school at the end of the week, excited about his Eid party and the craft he’d made with it. His lantern automatically made its way to his wall (the one in my room that used to be mine). He was happy with his colouring in, “I’m really pleased with the colours I chose Mum, I think you’ll really enjoy this”.

This morning I found him on his knees, eyes closed, hands flat together, facing the wall. He was praying to his lantern.

“Are you praying Henry?”

“Yep, that’s what you do at Eid with the lanterns. You pray.”

I wasn’t sure if he had that piece of information quite right – we moved on.

“What are you praying for?”

“Chocolate!” he opened one eye and smiled. “Not really Mum, you don’t have to pray for stuff. I’m praying to say thank you – that I’m here in this family.”

“Who are you praying to?” I could barely wait to hear the answer.

“Anyone who’ll listen”.

And there it was. Possibly the truth for all of us when it comes to religion and prayer.

Anyone who’ll listen.

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