Often people turn to a particular religion in response to the most confusing question of where we came from and who put us here. Some form of religion can be found in every culture throughout the world. Because the question of our origin is a universal uncertainty, its no wonder that throughout the countless number of religions, there are always some common bonds. Many times religions from different cultures will share beliefs and rituals that are very similar. Often people will judge a different culture or religion without fully understanding it only to find that their beliefs are very similar to that of the people whom they so harshly judged.
For example, traditional Africans have such strong family bonds that they continue communication with those who have recently passed away. Reverend William Kingsley Opoku says “Our ancestors are our saints. Christian missionaries who came here wanted us to pray to their saints, their dead people. But what about our saints?” (pg.53) This shows how Christians tried to change the Africans beliefs to accommodate their own without even thinking of how closely related they were. This is quite similar to the Christian practice or habit of visiting the graves of passed loved ones. African cultures take it to the extent of setting a place at the table and food and drink. Likewise some Christians have their loved ones cremated and the ashes are placed in their home. Also many times people visit the graves of those who have passed away. Personally, I often visit the grave of my grandmother. She and I were very close, we even shared the same name. Whenever I really miss her I visit her grave. Sometimes I’ll talk to her, or sometimes it just helps to sit there and think. It is a way of keeping her memory alive and helping me to cope with her being gone.
Another case of similarity is how many indigenous cultures undergo a “vision quest.” During these quests “they undergo ritual purification, and are then sent alone to a sacred spot to cry to the spirits to reveal something of this purpose in life and help them in their journey.” ( pg. 71) This particular ritual is very similar to the Catholic practice of confession. During confession a person speaks confidentially with a priest and confesses any sins that he or she may have committed. After listening to these confessions, the priest will then tell the person to go alone and say certain prayers such as: a Hail Mary or Our Father. This is supposed to help relieve the person of his or her guilt and also cleanse the soul.
Another example of common beliefs is the way that people “look to the divine for strength in dealing with personal problems.” (pg. 20) Those who are suffering from physical illness, grief, stress, or any life problem often say a prayer or simply turn to their “god” in thought. Often a student who is preparing to take an important test will sit in their desk and say “Please God help me.” Sometimes they do not even realize they are doing it. Likewise, a person who is going through some hard times or illness will say “Please God why me?” While in other cultures a person suffering the loss of a loved one will light a candle or incense rather than only say a prayer. Either way the person decides to go to the divine, it will only bring them closer to knowing what they believe as their divine. Agnes Collard, a Christian woman near death from four painful years of cancer said “I don’t know what or who he is but I am almost sure that he is there. I feel his presence, feel that he is close to me during the awful moments. And I feel love.” (pg. 20) Furthermore, Mahatma Gandhi was as extremely shy, fearful, self-conscious child when he turned to the great Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. While meditating to this scripture he transformed into one of the greatest political figures of our time. These examples show that these two people, who are from extremely different cultures and backgrounds, both went to their divine and found strength to deal with and make the most of their situations.
In conclusion, although we may not understand or even want to understand different cultures or religion, we are all tied together. I have learned many new ideas and concepts while studying these native cultures. Along with the fact that many of the traditions and beliefs which I uphold may have come from these indigenous people. Therefore, everyone should learn to have a better understanding of these cultures because we are all bound together in the search for who we are.