Peace Through Tolerance and Non-Violence

I live in a fairly racially-uniform town, so I grew up without much diversity around me. However, at around the age ten, when I started understanding the things said on the news, I was a bit cultured shocked at the violence that goes on throughout the world. While I'd never seen in person an altercation between people of different races or religions, it was strange for me to realize that these things actually happened. And I didn't understand.

I went to Catholic church as a child while most of my friends were Protestant or Lutheran, or any of the other variety of Christian there is in the world. No one especially cared much about this, at least not until middle school, when puberty hits and tweens begin rebelling against their parents, analyzing other kids to see who they should hang out with and what they should become. I'd like to say I didn't do this, and compared to many people, I hardly did, but there were some aspects of my childhood that I wanted to shy away from. When I told people I was Catholic, they winced a little, then they laughed a little, then they started to poke a little fun. But why? Maybe there's a stigma there, and maybe we break the bread a little differently, but essentially we're the same. We live by the same rules: don't kill, don't lie, respect your parents. Soon, this began to get in my head a bit. Like most kids at that sensitive age, I questioned my upbringing, and soon, at around the age of fourteen, I decided that I was no longer a Christian. I acknowledge my childhood in church, but to this day, I still don't feel like Christianity is what I believe. And guess what, even if I don't believe what the Christian doctrine believes, I still don't kill people, I don't lie, and I (try to) respect my parents. Instead of prayer and church and bread and wine, I do yoga, I'm a vegetarian, and I write.

Looking back, I can see my desire to belong, the same desire that children and teenagers, and adults as well (since I'm entering that realm now), all harbor. I understand, and even laugh at a little, that my story has nowhere near the level of intolerance that people experience on a day to day basis in this world. I've lived a lucky life so far, all things considering. However, from the religious disputes in the UK (Protestants and Catholics) to the Anti-Islamic issues we deal with in the US (they've got enough problems with violence in the Middle East without us judging them for their beliefs), from discrimination against blacks and Hispanics to the lack of effort in helping those in need (starvation in Africa, the homeless, the mentally ill), there is an obvious problem with violence and intolerance in this world.

This problem, the biggest problem and the one that most immediately needs resolving, does not consist of groups pinned against each other. This is a personal problem. Wars are waged in the hearts of man, not in a religious system or in the biology of one's skin. If we resolve our personal issues and prejudices, we can then work to resolving the issues around us. World peace must begin with inner peace. :)

Peace, Aimee