Youth and religion
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
DOZENS OF young Christian, Muslim and Baha'i worshipers came together last weekend for a special interfaith service at the Parish Church hall in Port Maria, St Mary.
The event, which aimed to promote tolerance and raise greater awareness of other faiths, was held under the theme 'Youth Advance, Not Leaving it to Chance' and featured presentations from a diverse roster of religious advocates, including Mustafa Muwwakkil, a Muslim from Port Maria, who read passages from the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an.
Muwwakkil told Rural Xpress: "I was invited here on behalf of the Muslims to talk about our religion, Islam. I think this is a very good idea because it brings people together, and the more we interact, the more we understand each other.
"We have young people who are Muslims and when they go to school they are exposed to people who don't know anything about Islam. But if everyone gets the chance to know about Islam there won't be any hiccups when they are with other children at school.
"Everybody is not going to believe the same thing or have the same point of view, but how tolerant can you be to live with the differences?"
He added: "The integration of communities begins with proper parenting. If you have good families, you start to have good communities.
"In the Muslim community we have something called Tarbiah, which is the training of an individual from an infant, so that child grows up with a particular level of discipline, because Islam is about principles. You can't do or think what you feel like. You have to obey everything that comes from the Qur'an.
"Once a person has the commitment to believe in Islam, they become more disciplined and obedient, because that is the source of peace within yourself and with your fellow man."
Director of cultural policy in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Marisa Benain, noted that the interfaith service was the final event in the Youth Month 2014 calendar, and praised the St Mary-based organisers for devising such an innovative project.
She said: "I was very impressed by what I saw today. Events such as these are important because sometimes communities are inherently forgotten, and when you go into these areas you recognise that you don't have to be in the main city all the time, because there is something special about each area.
"We tend to always think that Kingston is Jamaica, but it's good to come to St Mary and other rural locations, meet the youth, celebrate, and worship with them."
The National Centre for Youth Development's senior youth empowerment officer for St Mary, Anisa Wilson, added: "This evening, we had a spiritual gathering to promote understanding among different groups.
"We have youths from many religions and wanted this event to be a melting pot for them to fellowship, share, and promote tolerance and acceptance.
"We are living in a very intolerant world where people don't like differences, and sometimes we are not exposed to the differences that are out there, so a gathering like this serves to raise awareness and promote unity and oneness, because despite our differences, we are all one."