My Friend Of A Different Faith Face to Faith Competition Winner | Ana
Anna Sofia from Tecnológico de Monterrey, in Mexico, was one of a number of students from our Face to Faith programme who took part in My Friend of a Different Faith writing their own stories of how they have lived with and learned from their friend of a different faith. This story was one of our prize winners. You can find the work of other prize winning Face to Faith students on the My Friend of a Different Faith resource page in company with others like Eboo Patel, Joel Edwards, and many more.
Having grown completely apart from other cultures and beliefs had me stuck inside my little bubble which didn’t let me see how diverse and interesting the world could be when you start to explore different points of view about life. This past year was perhaps one of the most important years of my life because I learned to learn from others, without judging but literally diving into their beliefs, experiencing their faith directly.
My Face to Faith experience and the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme taught me that to make an opinion and to be able to criticize something, you first need to have knowledge about the topic, and this applies to all cases. Being in a Catholic school all my life and never being able to meet people that thought differently from me was a big drawback when I entered High School and started to meet new people with different religious beliefs, because I thought they were wrong. They are not.
I went for two months to help Catholic girls in Jerusalem last summer where I had the opportunity to meet people from all ages and all kinds of religions: Muslims, Jews, Bahá'í’s, Christians and atheists. When arriving in Jerusalem, I was just a young 17 year old Catholic tourist who wanted to learn about everything. And I did, I learned about every reason, tradition, holy place, belief, history, book and temple of each religion, especially of the Islam and Judaism. Being in a place where three of the most important religions of the world meet, and in a place that thanks to this people are divided and even conflicted between them, made me realize the necessity of understanding our different positions in the world.
It would be boring to all agree on something, we exist as human beings capable of having something more than just the basics to live, to have faith on something that is important to us and will make us better persons. I met a family of Jews from Venezuela who invited me to the beach after having a conversation with them in a Jewish memorial park, where I was hanging around in my bicycle, and they didn’t care I was not from their culture - we both spoke Spanish and we related with that.
I hung out with a Belgium atheist who was at Palestine helping poor communities to raise funds, and we talked about our beliefs and our studies and about what we wanted to be in life. We agreed on something: we wanted to make a change, and we were tired of cultural barriers that only caused problems and misunderstandings, also, we even liked each other. I had more contact with many Muslims, because when riding the bus, going shopping, asking for help, they were always there willing to help, and they were very nice to me. When going to their sacred temple (The Mosque of the Rock), I took the precaution of going with pants and a long-sleeved shirt out of respect, because their religion asks women to be dressed like that and I was going to visit their place.
One day I was sitting outside Jerusalem’s Old City waiting for an Arab friend, when I noticed an old Orthodox Jew yelling at me things I didn’t understand, but then it hit me that I was wearing a strapless shirt, which offended him. At first I was mad, because he was the one that had to be more tolerable, but then I reflected and understood that it is his country and his religion for all the years he has lived, that seeing a girl not properly dressed outside his holy city is grave. Since then I carried a sweater everywhere I went, sacrificing my heat for the respect of others.
I have many stories that won’t fit on this essay, but in conclusion, being at that city and going to the Holy Places that are indifferent to me but mean to others what the Holy Places mean to me, made a big impact on me because I started to put myself in their shoes, having grown with another faith, watching their family practice their religion, they have their own truth, even if the real truth does exist, we live under different realities.
By Ana Sofia Romero