My mother’s family is my strongest roots. It’s where I laugh the most, love the most, and receive most warmth. It’s possibly due to the fact that I am my grandmother’s pride and joy, along with my sister the precious gem, and we’re just more drawn to that side of the family thanks to her.
And let me tell you this: it’s not just a regular family. It’s a multicultural family.
We are of different colors, different religions, different backgrounds, and yet when we sit down together for lunch, we’re one.
It’s that simple.
Lately, around me, there have been mad conflicts regarding religions. So here’s a thought.
My mother’s family is one of different religions in one; we cover almost all major religions, and we love the diversity in our house.
I’ve been to mosques and temples, cathedrals on some days, and I love them all. I grew up listening to my cousins talk about their religious studies and sometimes during sleepovers, we’d discuss things such as faiths and expectations from our religions.
To some people, it’s strange.
I’d gone to Christian schools most of my life, and I’d watch people’s eyebrows arching down at my casual talk about the religions I grew up with.
“And you guys get along?” sometimes I’d hear people ask.
“Yes, my cousins are my best friends.”
There isn’t anything wrong with growing up with different religions, with knowing their stories and beliefs, respecting them, and being grateful for the diversity we have. Or is there?
We have acknowledged, at early age, that religions don’t define whether you’re good or bad. The label does not dictate whether someone is trustworthy or honest, kind or mean, good or bad.
“My friends said I shouldn’t befriend Christian people,” one of my cousins said one sleepover night, almost two decades ago.
“But you have no choice. We’re family,” I said to her, while trying to recall if anyone had something to me about befriending a Muslim.
We were so young; I honestly did not think such issue would surface.
“Well, they’re scared because they don’t know. They think Christian people would reject them.”
Back then, I could see her point. Who knew how I’d have been like if I wasn’t born into this family? Would I treat her differently? Would I treat the whole religion differently?
But I just laughed at that. “That’s silly. Isn’t our God, your God, my God, a kind one? He created all, didn’t he? Everyone is His child. And on that note, we’re all siblings.”
But not everyone sees it that way.
In any story, we’re told that our gods created all. And which creator wouldn’t be sad to see his creations hating each other, calling superiority over others, indirectly insulting the rest as if they’re not made of the same roots?
“Christianity doesn’t make you good or bad,” my cousin said, “You’re Devina, and you’re kind, no matter what religion you’re wearing.”
In college, I used to hang out so much with a group of girls. People used to stare because they wore hijab, and I had my hair loose. I also always had a cross necklace hanging on my neck, as if I had to claim my label to everyone passing my way.
One day, one of the girls said, “Christians must be really nice. You’re one of the nicest people I’ve known.” Sadly, I cringed at that.
I knew very well, that my church friends were against me hanging out with them, that I’d been called names for “being in the wrong group of friends.”
One person does not represent a religion. Religion does not define one’s good or bad nature. It might reveal about what one grows up with, the kind of rules and limitations one deals with, and what one is expected to follow.
It’s like, everything else that we use as identity. It’s a label.
It’s something we relate to, like being a certain sex or color, born in a certain country, speaking certain languages.
But it does not define who we are. It does not dictate the heart. It’s not a sin to have it challenged in the mind either.
The heart and the mind belong to us, and they serve such mystery that not even things that are inculcated into them since early age can last. They’re so painfully our own, that they speak louder than what simple labels can do to our image.
Of course, people choose the easy way, looking for labels and using them as the base of judgment.
A man who’d followed his religion 110% his whole life might break one day if his heart tells him something is wrong. A woman who’s been told her whole life to be submissive with ‘being a housewife’ as a life goal might break one day when she realizes she truly desires something else. Or when her mind puts together enough common sense to decide what she wants and what she can do to get it.
Labels, in the end, don’t mean much.
Labels classify, divide, put us in groups as if we’re houses in Game of Thrones. And as much as that sucks, that’s how a lot of things work.
That people look at what you wear and mentally judge you right away.
And only those who are keen enough will see past the labels. Straight to the heart and mind. And see whether you’re worthy of their time or not.
But what kind of person would you rather be?