Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Religion & the Volunteer

I think I have been reading too many young adult novels because every witty blog title I can think of has a Percy Jacksonesq thing going on.

Anyhoo...Peace Corps and regligion. Geez. I feel like I am trying to pack in all those last minute thoughts into two months of blog posts. Sorry. Sorry my revelations are just now coming. I totally should've been on this years ago.

So, yeah, Peace Corps and religion. I hope by now all you wonderful readers know Peace Corps is an apolitical and non-religiously affiliated international aid/peace fostering organization. If you don't, well, read my 50 Tips in 50 Days [link] page. That should help.

Peace Corps has a very clear cut policy against [religious] proselytizing. For me, it's not hard to follow because I don't talk about religion with host country nationals. I mean, if I am with other Americans and they ask me about my religious affiliation/beliefs, I am more than happy to share, but, while acting as a PCV I following a strict, "uh huh. Not gonna talk about it," policy. This is just me. It was a decision I made early in my service and I don't regret it one bit.

I just don't like the assumption that all Americans are Christian. I also don't like the language used to describe non-Judaic religious or non-religious groups/persons (locally). For me, it's important to accept a person regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs and I find that my role here is often showcasing how a person is worthy of respect whether you know their faith background or not. I also work hard at expressing my willingness to learn about Islam. It's a hard road to travel, but I find it ultimately more rewarding. Teaching tolerance is one thing. Showing tolerance and a willingness to learn is quite another.

It probably seems weird to you all, but it has been important to me. In all honestly, I have come to some pretty hard truths regarding religion while serving and I am glad I have had the opportunity to uncover so much about myself and my beliefs. Still, it was never my intention to journey on that particular path nor bring anyone else along for the ride. Being apolitical and religious neutral has served me very well as a PCV, mainly because by removing those pieces of my personality, I also removed many reasons why some locals may suspect me for being here. Of course, my closer local friends know more about me than others, but my religion is still a non-topic. For me, this works. I also have promised to tell everyone what my religious leanings are once I am no longer a PCV, so that probably helps too.