Faith and Religion played an integral part in the roller-coaster that was 2012. We saw many stories which brought out the best in people whilst others had us hanging our heads in shame. As 2012 draws to a close, I share with you 4 faith based stories which inspired me this year.
My most inspiring faith stories from 2012:-
1) Huffington Post’s Religious Person of the Year 2012, Balpreet Kaur. Balpreet hit the news after a picture of her standing in line was taken by an editor of Reddit and posted online under the subject heading of ‘funny’ based on her unique appearance. But instead of ignoring the intentional offensive jibes, she responded with a remarkable generosity of spirit:
“Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will… When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away,” Kaur wrote. “However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.”
“I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post… I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.”
Balpreet Kaur showed that grace, kindness and goodness are the best antidote to ignorance online as well as offline and thus was made Huffington Post’s Religious person of the Year joining people such as the Dalai Lama in an exclusive club.
2) With the 2012 US Presidential Election, a lot of attention was given to the Republican Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney’s faith and his beliefs as a Mormon. However these elections brought another 2 historic firsts for religion in American politics: a Buddhist was elected to Hawaii’s Senate and a Hindu was elected to the Hawaiian Congress. Supporters of newly elected senator Mazie Hirono and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said that the win paved the way for a lot more representatives from the ethnic minority communities to come forward and make an impact on the political arena.
3) In August 2012, I watched in horror as news filtered in of a gunman who shot dead 6 worshippers in a Sikh Gurdwara (place of worship) in Wisconsin, USA in an act of domestic terrorism. The gunman was later found to have had links to white supremacist groups. However as Sikhs across the world mourned at the loss, I was touched by the support and messages of condolences that the Sikh Community received from people of other faiths and of no faith. I personally received a letter from faith based student organisations condemning the incident in Wisconsin. The letter signed by the Union of Jewish Students, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, National Hindu Students Forum, and the Student Christian Movement stated,
“We wholeheartedly condemn the horrific attack that took place on the 5th August at the Sikh temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We send our sympathy and solidarity to the Sikh community, both in Wisconsin and across the world, at this difficult time. The student movement stands in solidarity with all victims of racism and far right aggression. We recognise the need to challenge and oppose racists and neo-Nazis, both in words and on the streets. We also struggle against the poverty, inequality and alienation that help fuel racist and far right ideas. We reaffirm our solidarity with the Sikh community and our commitment to working with them to try and prevent atrocities like the attack in Milwaukee from ever taking place again.”
The unity showed by other faith groups brought out the best in others even in the time of a tragedy.
4) In a world with big problems, it is often the small gestures that make the loudest noise. As the world remained in fear, praying for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a small appeal for peace captured the attention of the online community after the picture above went viral on Facebook and Twitter. The simple photograph showed 2 men holding cardboard signs. One sign reads, “I’m Jewish and I am from Israel.” Another reads, “I’m Muslim and I am from Palestine.”The simple photograph showed two men standing in midtown Manhattan holding cardboard signs. Together the men hold a third sign: “Why can’t we all just get along?”