There are many different cultures around the world. It is always interesting to learn about another culture, especially its religion, food, and traditions. When you meet any person from another culture, you will start asking him or her about his or her native culture. It is so much fun to compare it with your own culture and discover some differences and similarities. It also helps in understanding that culture and avoiding any embarrassing situations in the future. Most of the people in America are Christians. Therefore, I have chosen to explore the Christian religion especially their church and basic beliefs. The first thing that came into my mind when I decided with the topic was ‘the church’. I wanted to visit it and get to know what the Christians were doing there.
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When I first came to America, the most difficult thing was the unique culture and how I should deal with it. I started getting to know about the American life, and how they led their daily routine, what they ate, drink, and love. I used to live with an American family, and they helped me adapt to the American lifestyle easily. They were exceptionally friendly and understanding people. They respected my culture and my religion. They used to ask me about my culture and my religion. They were very strong Catholics and used to go to church every Sunday. I would ask them a lot of questions about Christianity and compare it to my religion that is Islam. I found out that there were a lot of things that were different between the two religions. The family told me that there were not so many Catholic people here in America.
I went to the church next to my house. The church had also a school for children and a little garden for these children to play. There worked people who were taking care of the kids. Many families came to drop their kids, and they were so comfortable to do that because they knew their children were in safe hands. I went to the main office and met a lady, who worked there. I told her that I was doing a research, and I needed certain information to write an essay. She took me to the director so I could ask whatever I wished.
As soon as the director saw me, she stood up to welcome me; she was so nice to me. I told her what I wanted, and she was so welcoming. Her name was Vicki Harper, the director of Cornerstone Children Academy. I asked her if I could have a chance to see the church from inside and she obliged. While we were on our way to the church, she showed me the classes and how they took care of the kids. They taught the kids a lot of subjects, but they focused on the religion more. That was nice to know, and I was thinking and comparing it to my religion. Actually, we have the same school like that.
When I got inside the church, I was so happy because I had wanted to do that for a long time already. It was nice from inside, and it was built in a beautiful way. There were a lot of pictures of Jesus, Holy Mary, and other saints on the walls. There were many big chairs so people could sit close to each other. There was a big cross in the middle of the church. I saw some people were praying and reading from their books. The first thing I noticed as we entered the door of the church was a pool of water, which the director named a holy water font. The font contained water that was blessed by the priest/Father and was used as a reminder of baptism. Next to the baptismal pool was a large candle that she said was called a Paschal candle. The holiest part of the church was the Sanctuary. It was an elevated front part of the church, which was distinguished by a big table (an altar) and several chairs for the priest and altar servants. There was also a pulpit (the place from where the priest preached his sermons). As we entered the church, we saw a lobby section that had a bookstore, statues of saints, and a coatroom. The director said that it was the vestibule.
I am a Muslim; therefore, I was comparing the Catholic church to a Muslim mosque. Both are built for the grace of God or Allah and are a symbol of love and power, which are in the core of both religions. Nevertheless, the inner structure of the religious buildings is quite different. I realized that, unlike mosques, this Catholic church had offices, classrooms, a worship room, and even a school inside the church. Mosques have a large open area with no pews. While, in the mosque, we pray on our knees on prayer mats, Catholics have chairs/benches and, although they may pray on their knees, there is no room. A mosque may have offices, but their set-up is not like that of the Catholic church, a big bathroom where every person is supposed to clean himself and classrooms are used to teach others.
As we were going around the church, I asked Mrs. Harper why she was a Christian and what this meant for her. She answered that she believed in God and His son Jesus Christ, who died on the cross so that our sins were forgiven. She said that she always tried to do what was right; nevertheless, she was not perfect and would pray to God through Jesus Christ that her sins could be forgiven. That sounded interesting to me, because what I knew was that God did not have a son. I asked her why Catholics went to the church on Sunday. I thought it because of something related to an old tradition, but she gave a simple answer. She said that Sunday was a day when Christ resurrected; in addition, most people were free to come to the church on the weekend, and they could pray for a longer while. Nevertheless, she asserted that believers should come to the church and pray not only on Sunday but any other day. I further inquired why they have to confess their sins to a priest. The director answered that she personally did not do that, but other Catholic people did it, and she was not very sure why. That made me ask her another question on why Christians have many sects and divisions. She explained that it was a historical question with long roots, but all in all they believed in one God and that was the most important thing. I asked her about the way they prayed, and she answered about herself that, in her prayers, she thanked God for everything: for her husband, children, life, house, and that she did it every morning.
I thought it would be nice if I asked her about another religion and she said that she respected other religions because she wanted them to respect in what she believed and that was what I did. I asked her what she thought about Islam, my religion. She was quick to say that, although she had some Muslim friends, she had never bothered herself to ask more about it. My last question was to understand her thoughts about the Hijab. She thought it was a nice idea that Muslim women covered their faces because they did not want people to look at them and that she respected this tradition, and it was really a cool thing. She continued that, for Christians and especially the Catholics, the Hijab was not needed but one was required dressing formally and with respect. Thus, miniskirts or tight fitting clothes were prohibited.
It was really nice to get to know about another religion and another culture. I have realized that, although we may be different in our culture or religion, at the end of the day it may appear that we all believe in the same God. Therefore, the religious wars should have never arisen, and what is the most important, we should respect each other’s religious views. Most of my friends are from another culture and religion; nevertheless, we love each other like brothers and sisters without any religious tags. I realize that this life is all about respecting and being respected.