Muslim Student Association at Vista del Lago High School – photo by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
This year, Abadin, now 16 years old with aspirations of being an aerospace engineer, helped found the Muslim Student Association at Folsom’s Vista del Lago High School to foster religious tolerance—a tall order in this world of religious strife. Abadin’s eyes were opened by his experience, but how do other young people learn tolerance? From representatives of area religious organizations, we reaped these 10 commandments for parents.
I. Teach your children to believe in a creator. “Make sure your child has the fundamental value that there is a higher authority they need to respond to,” says Rabbi Yossi Korik, director of Chabad of Roseville/Placer County. “That gives your child the strength to do what’s right.”
II. Ground your child in the teachings of your faith. “The more you understand your own faith, the more willing you’ll be to engage in interfaith dialog,” says Reverend Sean Cox of Faith Episcopal Church in Cameron Park. As a retired Navy Reserve chaplain, Cox ministered to all faiths in the military. “I see religious intolerance most often in people who have a profound lack of understanding their own faith.”
III. Instill pride in your faith. Abadin was moved to found an organization based on tolerance after he learned to be proud of his religion. A child who is confident of her own faith is less likely to become intolerant.
IV. Model tolerance. “Walk the walk,” says Jane Lee, founder of God’s Heart and Hands, which celebrates motherhood as the link between children and God. “My beliefs, prejudices and judgments will be amplified in my kids.” Start within your own family by respecting everyone’s individuality.
V. Refuse to accept indifference. The worst attitude is not to care about others, says Korik. “Not caring doesn’t help people look out for each other.”
VI. Expose your children to other faiths. Encourage interfaith friendships, as Abadin’s parents did, and travel with them. (Cox takes his family on mission trips.) Consider diversity when you choose your neighborhood or schools.
VII. Find opportunities to learn about other faiths. Most religions welcome visitors to their services. Look for programs that enhance your children’s knowledge, such as Chabad’s annual Holocaust event. Learn about others’ religious celebrations—your library is a great place to start.
VIII. Be willing to share your beliefs. Invite your kids’ friends to take part in your religious holidays. Don’t preach, but teach.
IX. Teach your child to respect other faiths. She doesn’t need to believe a friend’s scriptures but she should respect the friend’s right to believe in them.
X. Live your faith. How we act reveals more about our faith than what we say, Lee says.