Lessons from a Portuguese girl experiencing life in Jordan
The World Economic Forum has revealed the fastest-growing religion in the world. The forum stated in a study published in May that Islam could overtake Christianity as the world’s dominant religion by 2070, and the main factor is the large youth demographic among Islamic families.
With the rise of Islam comes a decrease of faith among Christians and Buddhists. What conflicts emanate from this difference? How can values differ from one religion to another?
In an attempt to answer these questions, I decided to leave my country for the Middle East. I came to Amman, Jordan, this summer, to volunteer and better comprehend Islam and Arab traditions. I also wanted to contribute to achieving one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which is reducing social inequalities based on culture, origin and religion.
How leaving my country supports the reduction of inequalities, you ask? Here’s my answer.
1. It allows you to understand foreign cultures’ traditions and values.
It all starts with understanding. The world is shifting and our mindset has to shift with it. Experiencing a whole new culture, values and customs is changing the way I think, the way I face the world and how I interact and relate with those we have different ideals from those I am used to. They are not worse or better, they are just different.
In Arab countries, people tend to be more religious, guys greet their male friends with more than one kiss, and during Ramadan we should avoid to eat, drink or smoke during the day in the streets. In Western countries, most believers are non-practitioners, guys greet their male friends with a handshake or a hug and we do not fast. But these disparities are what makes the world so unique to live in.
2. It supports your capacity to engage with others for a higher purpose.
Living another culture by myself is the first step required to be able to engage my virtual and social network with this uniqueness. I took the first step to let myself embrace a different culture and way of thinking.
By creating empathy with the Arab and Islamic values, I am indirectly impacting my friends, family and social followers to break their stereotypes. I hope one day, they will have the same curiosity to step out from their comfort zone. I am sick of reading Islamophobic comments in my Facebook feed every time there is a new attack.
3. It gives positivity and ability to defy uncertainty.
The happenings of the past year confirm that we are living in an era of uncertainty and fear. We do not know when we will be living in harmony, how many years can it take for the world and its inhabitants to comprehend that we should give a big and strong hug instead of choosing to have conflicts.
Nevertheless, jumping to acknowledge a new country is giving me hope. Why we don’t start sharing our values and beliefs instead of considering them as enemies? I imagine a planet where the whole world would fast for one month, no matter its religion as, in my perspective, the experience behind goes beyond the connection with God.
Leave your country. Leave your comfort zone. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, to find what drives you in life and to use that passion to move the world toward a better place.