Sunday, February 8, 2015

So...why Jordan?

Life has a way of offering unique opportunities that, on the surface, seem to be less than what they will reveal themselves to be.  Taking advantage of those opportunities can be life-changing.  Traveling to Jordan was one of those life-changing and heart-opening occasions.  Most of the people who knew I was going to Jordan asked one simple question: "WHY?"!  Upon my return, my answer is, "Why not?"  I will try to explain.

Alison and I went to Amman, Jordan to participate in a conference coordinated by the Salam Institute for Peace and Justice in Washington, DC, the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Amman, Jordan, and the Fetzer Institute located in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  It was a conference whose goal was to increase understanding between Muslims and opportunity to address the power and challenges of love and forgiveness.  This trip ended up being so much more.

We arrived a few days early to allow us to do some exploring.  We went to Petra, Jerash, the Citadel, the Dead Sea, and other places between the desert and the city.  As much as we could, we explored Amman.  I will write about these sites in the course of the blog.  Unfortunately, we did not have nearly enough time to satisfy our curiosity considering that the history of Jordan goes back to the Paleolithic period, or about 90,000 BC.  This history included, in no particular order, the Romans and Greeks, the Nabateans, the Israelites, the Byzantine and Muslim eras, and others.  While all of the sites we did get to discover were fascinating and intriguing, it was the people we shared these experiences with that taught me more than I anticipated.

I am not going to address or, even pretend to understand, the intricacies of the life of a practicing Muslim.  It is steeped in tradition and is, ostensibly, a large and integral part of the life of the general population.  Their religion is an important and significant influence in their every day existence.  They are proud and protective of their beliefs.  They are committed to their religion's healthy traditions and customs and they want us to understand the side of them that is not generally known - the side that is a true representation of the good people they are and how they want the world to see them...apart from the stereotypes that have been established with the resulting prejudice and, even, hate. 

I would need to do extensive research to give a thoroughly educated overview regarding the religion of Islam.  I do not look at people through religion - I look at them through their character, the way they treat others.  If I had to comment as a result of the people we met while on this journey, I would have to say that kindness, respect, and caring for others seemed to be universal characteristics of the Jordanian people.  I believe that religion itself, regardless of what it might be called, supports all of those things.  If we, as human beings, could simply allow others to practice their chosen religion and it was proven that this practice was not harmful to others, we would find peace

It is an on-going process, necessitating all participants to be open-minded, willing to learn and, perhaps, to dispel some previously existing personal beliefs...including the willingness to "agree to disagree" in a genuine and respectful manner.  A sincere attempt at understanding and appreciating the ideas of others is paramount to the success of this type of undertaking...releasing the hold of one's ego and fear ...on both sides...and it is quite difficult.

I used this quote in another blog but felt it was appropriate for this one, as well.  

"Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day...Traveling allows you to feel more connected to your fellow human beings in a deep and lasting way, like little else can. In other words, it makes you more human."

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