We live in a world with a wide variety of people, beliefs and cultures. Sometimes it seems difficult to find common ground with, or even be tolerant of, those who are different from us. However, it is possible and completely necessary. One major area where everyone should be tolerant is religion. As parents, it's equally important to teach our children to be understanding and non-judgmental of others' beliefs.
Encourage children to choose good friends, regardless of religion
I have heard of families that don't allow their children to play with other kids who don't share their same religion. This is absurd! This teaches intolerance and can breed hate. Growing up, my mother taught me to find good friends. She did not specify a religion. As a result, I had friends from various belief backgrounds. They were (and still are) all good people. This is one way to teach our children to be tolerant of others' beliefs. By allowing and encouraging children to have friends with different beliefs, they will naturally become more accepting.
Make sure you are tolerant
The way you act toward others, speak about others and treat people who do not believe the same as you do will have a lasting effect on your children. Your example is the greatest teaching tool. If you are hateful or judgmental about others' religions, it will be reflected in your children's attitudes. Conversely, if you demonstrate love, understanding and an open mind and heart, your children will learn the beauty of diversity.
Avoid negative talk about other religions
My 10-year-old daughter has a friend who talks negatively about our religion regularly. Shockingly, her religious leader and parents are the source of this negativity. Not only is it inappropriate to speak negatively, but what is said is often false information due to a lack of knowledge or understanding. If you are tempted to speak ill of someone else's beliefs, try to gain a better understanding of them. Ask questions to those who really know. The Internet can sometimes be a good source, however, there is also a lot of false information out there. Go to the source. Ask friends or religious leaders who are a part of the religion to answer your questions. Learn and be respectful.
A single person does not always represent a religion well
Don't be too quick to judge a whole religion by the actions of one person. People make mistakes, even religious ones. We don't always make good choices or act according to the teachings of our religion. We are a work in progress and have not yet reached our full potential. Give people and their respective religions the benefit of the doubt. Always allow for second chances and change.
Don't push your beliefs on others; be respectful
There is a difference between sharing your religious views and trying to convince someone else to believe them. If you are truly tolerant of another's beliefs, you will allow them to follow the teachings they choose without judgment, hatred or bullying. If you expect respect for your religion, show that same courtesy to others. Respect doesn't mean you have to agree, but merely that you can handle differences with a good attitude. Share your beliefs when appropriate and answer questions when asked. Be courteous when others share their beliefs with you. Teach your children how to be kind and respectful of other beliefs.
One way to teach tolerance and understanding is to learn about other beliefs. Just like you teach your children about your own religion, it is also important for them to learn about other beliefs. Explore other religious holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah (Jewish), Christmas and Easter (Christian), Ramadan and Ashura (Muslim) or Nirvana Day and Wesak (Buddhist). Learn about the traditions associated with these holidays. If there are traditional religious meals or foods, you could make them to taste. Make it fun and interesting for your family. Make sure to always be respectful.
Recognize both differences and commonalities
Between religions, there are varying beliefs and ideas that followers subscribe too. However, among the differences, there are also many similar objectives. Perhaps it is love, belief in a supreme being, sacred scripture or simply trying to be the best person you can. Connect with each other based on similar beliefs and build up one another by sharing differences. Gain new understandings and insights. There are beautiful traditions and beliefs in all religions, regardless of whether they are your beliefs and traditions or not.
In a world of so much diversity, we need to seek to learn and understand the many cultures and religions around us. Those are the things that make up who we are. By celebrating and learning about each other's beliefs, we can more fully understand their motives, their thoughts and can love them more fully. There are wonderful people and traditions throughout the world that make the earth a beautiful place.