My travels have just taken me to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Unlike, the United States, which prides itself on being a melting pot, Malaysia has not melted- it is a beautiful hodgepodge of cultures, religions, languages, clothing, and food from all over the world. Short shorts and tank tops are next to hijabs and chadors, with all the wearers using selfie sticks or shopping at Sephora. Harmony seems impossible, but there it is- a million differences passing each other on the street or eating at each other’s restaurants.
I am surrounded by swirling colors and culture, only to log on and see updates on Ferguson protests and now Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where three Muslims were shot and killed.
So, my desire is this: understanding. I want to understand where hatred comes from and how to stop it. I want others to understand that our similarities are far greater than our differences.
This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with wisdom. I am not asking for agreement, or even tolerance, which seeks to ignore rather than understand. I’m asking for patience, and a willingness to listen.
Here in Kuala Lumpur there is a Hindu holy place called the Batu caves. They just finished celebrating Thaipusam. It involves flowers and prayer, and also hooks and self-mutilation. The hooks are placed through tongues or through the skin on backs. It is described as a religious euphoria reached through intense pain.
I do not understand it.
I do not agree with it.
But I do understand that holy pilgrimage comes from a need, and I recognize that need. It’s a need I find in my own life, when I go into the quiet places and search for something bigger than myself.
I may not understand, but wisdom tells me to try. It tells me that if I sit down and have a cup of teh terik with someone different from me, we will find a shared point of truth. And as a wise man once said, the truth will set you free.
So I pray,
Teach us patience. Give us wisdom and understanding. Help us to stop feeling threatened and find our safety, peace, and comfort in You, and not in the reactions of our fears. Help us to be salt, to be light, and to be your love.