My Experience in Face to Faith | Grant
This year, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to learn about different faiths and cultures by having video conferences with other schools around the world. This opportunity came in the form of Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Face to Faith program, in which adolescents throughout the world can video conference with their peers in different schools worldwide.
I got the chance to video conference with three schools and talk about religion, gender roles, and other controversial topics currently being debated on the global stage. I have benefitted from the program in the sense that I now have a feeling of global citizenship, and the knowledge of other cultures and problems that exist in other places around the world.
I had a truly humbling experience during a video conference with Adma International School in Beirut, Lebanon. As we conversed about the topic of faith and religion, the question of how faith can help see you through a particularly trying or difficult time in one’s life arose.
People on our side of the conference had stories of being in their basement, praying for safety during a rather violent storm or tornado and being unharmed afterwards. People in Lebanon on the other hand had stories of war and tragedy.
One student told of being at home in their village in Egypt, when all of a sudden the distinctive cracks of gunfire would become heard. Explosions rocked their home, and the glass burst from the windows. This particular person lost their father that day in the village attack which was fought between government loyalists and rebels fighting against an oppressive dictatorship. This person kept their faith close, and she remained unharmed and alive. She and her mother then fled to Lebanon, where she lives now.
Another girl was caught in a similar situation where she and her mother were caught in a raid and armed men took all their belongings, and she said that she and her mother didn’t care about losing their belongings. They were alive, and material objects were taken needlessly from them that day, but through prayer and hope their precious lives were spared.
This brought to light for me exactly how hard it is living in an unstable place like some parts of the Middle East, and how easy my life, and the life of most of my friends and family have it here in the United States. The trials and tribulations some of us had highlighted in our stories as responses to that particular question about faith were nothing compared to our peers and many of the people in some war ravaged parts of the Middle East. Yet, they are astoundingly strong and resilient despite great loss of loved ones and precious belongings.
I also found it so amazing how these people maintained their positive outlook on life, looking ahead at the future rather than dwelling upon the past. Learning from these personal, and heartbreaking experiences is more poignant than hearing about things on the news. This is probably the most valuable, and cherished lesson that I will take away from this program.
We also discussed the topic of the role of women in society, and more particularly the Episcopal institution with The Cathedral School in Cardiff, Wales. Right now it is a highly debated topic in England, whether or not women should be able to serve as bishops in the church. We had a discussion about equality and rights with the people in Wales, and we seemed to come to a consensus. Women should be able to do all the jobs that men can. Women and men serve alongside each other in combat as soldiers, and they contribute to society just as much as men do. This isn’t exactly a surprise; I think that it’s safe to say this would be the opinion of most people here in the United States. What was surprising to me was that someone in the class in Wales said that most people there don’t have the same opinions that we do. In fact, he said most people in their community were opposed to having women as bishops in their church.
It’s another interesting insight I’ve gained from this experience, a stark contrast from what I would consider to be the norm in the United States. After all, the head bishop of the Episcopal institution here is in fact a woman. This is just another way that I have learned from this program, realizing that some of the opinions that we find basic may not be perceived that way all over the world. This has been a great learning experience, and I hope to see this program grow because I know that I have taken away valuable lessons and expanded my cultural knowledge through Face to Faith. I want others to be able to have the humbling learning experiences that I have had through this program.
By Grant from Holland Hall School in Oklahoma USA