The Relevance of Religion
In the World

For years, I have begun all my classes with the statement that this can be the very best class that the student will ever take. Granted, that sounds full of hubris, but it isn’t. I absolutely believe that statement. Learning is a two-way effort though. I’ll help them, but they need to get in gear. I began last week in my two world religion survey classes by posting their grades for the previous week and then added, “Now, for what really counts, it is not about last week’s grades. What truly counts is that you are beginning to grasp that in all religions, there is the gap between beliefs and practices.  All religions talk the talk but stumble as they attempt to walk the walk.”

I had told my classes about a Sikh who was a retired general. He was not a marginal Sikh. He was a believer. Nonetheless, the Indian society, which includes Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism, has a problem with women. Sexual assaults usually go unreported and if reported are hardly ever investigated. Sexism is prevalent in all of India. It is sad. While the Sikh religion talks about equality of the sexes, there is often a vast gap between what they believe and what they practice.

I met the Sikh general while flying to India nearly twenty years ago. We were on a flight from the States to New Delhi, India. Since I get bored on long flights, I will walk around the cabin in the vain hope that my moving around might get the plane to its destination sooner. This time while circumnavigating the plane, I discovered an old guy wearing a Sikh turban, and he was traveling with his granddaughter who was merely a toddler. I sat down next to him, and we talked together for the rest of the flight. I told him that I would be traveling around India but that I wanted to stop at Amritsar where the Golden Temple is located. He lived in Amritsar and told me that he would show me around.

While at the Golden Temple, he found out that I taught at the college level. He asked me for dinner, because he wanted to talk with me. He had three grown daughters. Two of them lived in the States while the youngest lived in Amritsar. He wanted me to help her get into the university where I taught. In our discussion, I asked him how old she was and where she was in school. As it turned out, she had graduated from medical school with a degree in dentistry and was practicing in the city.

I couldn’t figure out why he wanted to enroll his daughter in a four year school when she had already a doctorate in dentistry. After a long discussion, he wasn’t really interested in enrolling at an American university. What he wanted was to get her out of India. I said that she was educated and an excellent role model for Sikh women and women in general. However, India has major problems with sex crimes even though the religions of India talk about equality of the sexes, which is especially true for Sikhism.

That is horrific if you are a female in India. However, how is that any different in America? We have white, old men with conservative Christian backgrounds, especially those of the evangelical persuasion, who treat women as objects and not people. The vast number of sexual assaults go unreported, and, when on rare occasions someone reports a case. Regardless, our society rarely believe the victims. When those old men in Washington are confronted with allegations of women, they dismiss it. Our president’s response wasn’t about women but men. He said that it is "a very scary time for young men in America."  Talk about a white old man uttering nonsense.

" You are scary…."

  I can’t cure the problems in India, the States, or Myanmar, but I can rant on and on about them.  I can also  push academic excellence for all students. Additionally, this is essential for women especially.  Women need more education than a men if women have any hope of functioning in this world.  Period.

Now, this is the critical part of this essay. What am I doing in Myanmar?  The two schools that my three granddaughters attend are all girls’ schools.  The total number of students is 1250, most of whom haven’t used a computer let alone own one.  That is the reason for We Are Family in Myanmar, Inc.  Education is the most productive means that I know by which women can approach equality with men.

I learned a great deal from my mentor, Bobby Kennedy. On June 6, 1966, Bobby Kennedy gave his ripple effect speech in Cape Town, South Africa. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

" Bobby in Cape Town"

So, that is where I am.  Where are you?  Think about it and get honest. You have a choice. If you wish this world would treat all people with equality, act.

Here is a list of old men who have chosen poorly.

  • Donald Trump is 72.

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley is 85.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham is 63.

  • Sen. John Kennedy is 66.

This is Bobby’s speech in Cape Town, South Africa.