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Two eyes, two ears, one mouth
There needs to be a willingness among people of every faith to sit with someone of a different religion and listen.
I am going to be skeptical and assume you’ve never opened the Khordeh Avesta. Heck, you’ve probably never even heard of Zoroastrianism’s book of common prayers. But if you flip through the pages to Ahuramazda Khodae, the prayer recited to banish the evil spirit Ahriman, you’ll find a phrase calling for the defeat of Kiks and Karaps. Kiks were those who had eyes but who would not see, and Karaps were the ones with ears but who would not hear.
Strictly speaking, Kiks and Karaps were people who refused to follow the nascent teachings of Zoroaster 3,000 years ago. I’d like to avoid the pro-Zoroastrian overtones, yet I feel the concept of non-seers and non-listeners is relevant even today, especially in the arena of religion. These days, you often hear about religion in the context of conflict, or violence or intolerance. You read the hateful words of the one most likely to open his or her single mouth and to shut his or her two eyes and ears.
I would argue that religious intolerance in the United States and across the globe is a far greater problem than it might seem. Intolerance extends from anti-Semitic comments made in Chicago to bombings in Northern Ireland and Mumbai, India. Why? My best guess would be ignorance—ignorance that has spawned disputes rather than understanding, tension rather than unity. This intolerance is something no crusade could ever fix; often the greatest enemies cannot be killed with guns or swords.
I firmly believe that religious education is the best answer. As great as the struggle to exist has been for any religious community, be it for Zoroastrians or Jews or whatever community, it will continue to be as difficult as long as intolerance (and the ignorance that breeds it) goes unchallenged. There need to be schools in Jerusalem in which Israeli and Palestinian children can learn side by side as classmates, not enemies. There need to be courses taught around the world that emphasize the common bonds among the most prevalent religions. There needs to be a willingness among people of every faith to sit with someone of a different religion and listen.
Hear the new perspective, observe the areas of agreement, and, when appropriate, speak. Don’t resign yourself to being a Kik or Karap.