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Throughout history, cultures have classified themselves by ritualistic practices and moral principles. These belief systems are what makes cultures unique and perse, but are also the soul source of strife between many of them. It is through religion, that a particular society remembers its past. Many beliefs are supported primarily, by a cultures unique ancestral history, beliefs practiced by relatives of long ago. With this being said, I feel religion is a factor that makes cultures unique, as well as a central cause of strife.
Although many religions claim there beliefs are grounded on peace, in many instances, that is not the case. Peace universally is defined as a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, (Webster Dictionary) Just as peace can mean different things to different cultures, so to can justice, although it is through peace that justice can flourish. If a culture can uphold peace, in a universal sense, then there society can flourish, and justice would not have to be exercised, because it will be felt by those that uphold peace.
I feel that peace and justice should not be pronounced as one word with one meaning, but rather two distinct acts, that are dependant on each other to ensure social stability. Peace, in my opinion, should be considered the forerunner of justice. It is through cultures respecting each others religious beliefs and practices that they can learn the benefits of maintaining a level of “peace” with each other, than justice will shortly follow. Justice is something that a society can truly understand seeing it through the eyes of those that realize its importance in a society’s growth. Without peace being properly implemented and understood, justice can easily turn to injustice. When a culture recognizes peace and they will eventually allow justice to flourish not only in there own community, but also in there surrounding ones as well.
In proposing this, there have been many religious movements within or history, some considered bad, and some, a source of enlightenment and hope for future generations. Two figures, which not only brought a source of peace in there communities, but also a light of inspiration to the world, showing people that through peace you can end social injustice. Mother Teresa, a source of light to for the poor, and a source of inspiration to those who were being unjustly treated. Mother Teresa, 1910-1977, became a catholic nun at the age of 18, and joined the order of the sisters of Our Lady of Loreto.
She eventually went on to found her own order called the sisters of Charity, in which members had to take four vows, poverty, chastity, obedience, and service to the poor. With the foundation of this order, Mother Teresa and the sisters of charity opened up a series of orphanages, hospitals for lepers, and a series of other homes throughout various countries, eventually winning a noble peace prize in 1979 (Encarta encyclopedia). Her order practiced service to the poor, and lived and shared some of the same conditions.
These sisters, practiced prayer, humility, and service to the sick and dying. Ironically, these sisters lived in communities that weren’t primarily Christian, yet there impact breached the boundaries of faith and opened the worlds eyes to those who where truly suffering and needed help. Her order was centered in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The sisters of Charity helped impoverished children, particularly the “Untouchables,” groups of lepers who were deemed untouchable by the community, and basic, treated worse than there live stock. It was through the efforts of the Sisters of Charity that many of the poor not only in Kolkata, but communities around the entire region by tending to there sick, taking in there orphans, and establishing a firm foundation of peace amongst the society in which the poor inhabited.
Through Mother Teresa example, using her Sisters of Charity, peace amongst cultures that did not particularly share the same religious beliefs began to flourish, and because of that, it allowed certain people, regardless of faith, realize the unjust actions of there government against its own citizens, thus encouraging social change within there community. It was through peace, that the citizens in the surrounding communities learned and felt justice, the justice that the untouchables deserved came in the form of charity. In this case, the sisters of Charity ushered in a peaceful resolve to a social situation, and in turn, opened peoples hearts and eyes to the injustice that was being preformed to the poor and sick (Untouchables).
The second religious movement that inspired people of all faiths was a civil disobedience movement sparked by a Hindu man by the name of Gandhi. Gandhi taught the art of non violent protest, aimed at passive resistance towards Britain. Economic independence for India was the prime motive for Gandhi; he would try to accomplish this through the overall boycott of British goods. (Encarta Encyclopedia) Gandhi’s overall boycott of British goods served to bring India’s economic level to overall poverty; this would be remedied by a revival of cottage industries.
Gandhi lived an ascetic spiritual life centered on fasting and prayer, Gandhi preached that it was this type of lifestyle that would make India a simple village in which society would learn how to live off of the resources they had around them, rather than be dependant on foreign goods. This would produce a tremendous task for the inhabitants of India, eventually a series of armed revolts broke out against Britain, and Gandhi confessed that the non violent campaign he had started failed.
Although his initial campaign failed, his story would prove to be a source of inspiration not only to Hindu’s, but Muslims, and Christians as well. In saying this, I feel that this is one of the most significant religiously inspired events because it was these same non violent principals that Gandhi used, that was and has been used throughout the corresponding decades following his death. For example, during the civil rights protest, Martin Luther king practiced many of Gandhi’s non violent protest techniques, one of which being the boycott of the buses in the early 1960’s which proved useful when allowing a black person to sit wherever he chooses on the bus.
It was realized by the majority of black people of the time, that the transportation industry received much of its funding from the black population, considering most black people at that time could not afford transportation, many of them relied heavily on public transportation. I feel the most important thing to remember about non violent civil disobedience is self inflicted suffering, people must be willing to sacrifice things that they could normally be used to having, thus causing a certain amount of suffering within the inpidual, detachment from things that they could be used to having.
In conclusion, Religious movements throughout history have proved to cause both unity and chaos. It is of utmost importance that we as a civilization learn from the mistakes of or predecessors, but it is through these mistakes that good religious movements start as well. If there would have never been a severe amount of “Untouchables” in India, Mother Teresa would have never started the Sister’s of Charity, and the world would have never seen the strength of someone whose sole purpose in existence was that of prayer, and service to the poor. If India would have not been in the state it was in, Gandhi would have never enlightened the world with his teachings of non violent resistance to civil authority. Furthermore, it was through peace that both leaders opened the people’s eyes to the injustice that had been taking place in there own communities.
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