THE BLOG

Respecting Our Different Views

01/04/2015 12:26 BST | Updated 30/05/2015 10:59 BST

If you aren't an Atheist, then there's a good chance that like me, you believe God created our world in 7 days. Both Judaism and Christianity are Abrahamic faiths that share this view.

While these two religions are unified in their belief about how the world was created, they differ in other key areas.

Christianity originated in the middle of the first century and taught it's followers that salvation could be achieved by accepting Jesus of Nazareth as their lord and saviour. The Christian doctrine of the trinity defines God in three forms: The Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. These beliefs are recorded in the New Testament, an anthology written by several men who are said to be the disciples and original followers of Jesus. It is widely believed amongst Christians that the Torah (or what they call the Old Testament) has been superseded by the writings of these men.

Judaism is the world's first monotheistic faith and emphasises the oneness of God. This belief is reiterated consistently in the Torah, Judaism's most important text. The Torah contains the law outlined in the five books of Moses. It is seen as an eternal guide for Jews to live by and these teachings have been observed for thousands of years. Jewish people participate in an individual and collective dialogue with the Almighty through a range of prayers, rituals and ethical actions. Judaism strongly rejects the concept of God in a human form.

So why am I writing exclusively about these two faiths today, when there are plenty of other religions out there?

We are now just a couple of days away from one of the most important annual periods for both Jews and Christians. It's worth mentioning that I write this piece as a Jewish man. I have friends from many other religions and we peacefully respect our different beliefs. This kind of harmony is becoming more common in modern communities in the Western World. Unfortunately this has not always been the case.

The refusal by my people to leave our faith in years gone by has resulted in several brutal attacks. The crusades and pogroms took the lives of millions and many believe that the rise of Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany was strongly linked to the way Jews are portrayed in certain parts of the Gospels - particularly the Passion Narratives.

As a result of the atrocities mentioned above, there are now only 14 million Jewish people on the planet. That's less than 0.2% of the world's population.

Stop for a moment and consider just how small that number really is.

Our love of Torah and the commitment to preserve it over the last 2000 years, has resulted in needless hatred and barbaric acts by many who have held opposing religious beliefs.

Whilst things are nowhere near as bad now as they were in the past, there is still a troubling amount of Anti-Semitism in certain parts of the world. I wish I could say that the Church no longer has a role in this, but the yearly recitation of the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews in Catholic congregations is a perfect example of where hatred and disrespect for different beliefs can breed.

There have been numerous attempts over the years by Anti Defamation organisations to have the sentiments of this prayer removed, but despite some amendments to the derogatory wording, the theme has never changed. There is still an inherent belief that the conversion of Jewish people is necessary to achieve salvation.

The burning desire to convert others is a dangerous concept, and one only needs to look at what is happening in certain parts of the Middle East right now as an example of the damage this mentality can cause.

Most world religions command us to respect our fellow man. But what does respecting our fellow man really mean?

As far as I'm concerned, it means accepting him regardless of his different beliefs, and facilitating an environment where everyone can practise their rituals in peace.

Hatred and intolerance has taken the lives of too many and it needs to stop.

This Friday, Christian people around the world will commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Many will attend Church services and get together with their families to honour the most solemn day in their calendar.

A few hours later (On Friday night), Jewish families will sit around a Seder table and retell the story of Passover - a festival that reflects on the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and their long journey towards the Promised Land.

Here's to respecting our differences and wishing peace and harmony to everyone, irrespective of what you believe.