Opinion: Houses of worship are sacred places - honor them

By Heyam Khweis, Taos
Posted 3/28/19

Houses of worship are so important in any society seeking stability, not only because ancient civilizations, prophets and gurus of the world's most influential religions encouraged building and …

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Opinion: Houses of worship are sacred places - honor them

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Houses of worship are so important in any society seeking stability, not only because ancient civilizations, prophets and gurus of the world's most influential religions encouraged building and honoring them, but also because houses of worship are healthy for societies and help build stronger communities. Unfortunately, the phenomenon of acts of violence against houses of worship is something that happens in our modern world.

Since the beginning of mankind, there have been houses of worship. In fact, in 6,000 BC, temples in ancient Iraq or what is known as the "cradle of civilization" were erected to house the god or goddess of the city. Religion and temples clearly played a great role in people's lives in ancient Egypt because there are almost 138 pyramids or temples that still exist from 10,000 years ago. Ancient China practiced religion over 7,000 years ago, and the temples that are still around are a testimony to the country's long history and rich culture.

The world's oldest Buddhist shrine, discovered in Nepal, goes as far back as the sixth century BC, as well as the temples in many ancient civilizations like those of the Aztecs, Greeks, Romans, Persians, etc.

In the first book of Torah, it is mentioned that God created a home for human beings to inhabit, and in the second book it is mentioned that human beings created a home for God to inhabit. While wandering across the desert, Moses and his followers would assemble and disassemble the Tabernacle as they went, emphasizing the importance of having a portable earthly dwelling place for God.

In Christianity, the Church of Nativity, where Jesus Christ was born, has had its doors open since 300 AD, for a total of some 2,000 years.

And the holy edifice in Islam, the Kaaba, in Mecca, is believed to have been built by Adam as the first "house of worship" in humanity, and has been remodeled and taken care of till now.

Places of worship were honored throughout history by all civilizations, and the world's most influential religions: Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. For example, if a fugitive in the Germanic kingdom sought refuge in a church, the priests would only give him up to authorities upon the latter's reassurance that the fugitive would not be killed.

Under English common law, an offender who sought refuge in a church was given a choice between going to court or leaving the kingdom.

Before Islam, the different tribes on the Arabian peninsula would raid one another year-round, except when they would go to the Kaaba for pilgrimage. During this time, there would be a truce.

In modern 21st century, the International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Conventions honored religious buildings and encouraged that "houses of worship" be as protected as Red Cross and Red Crescent. In Article 3 of the 1981 UN "Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief" provides: "Discrimination between human beings on grounds of religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a denial of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and shall be condemned as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enunciated in detail in the International Covenants on Human Rights, and as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between nations."

Houses of worship, including churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, help build stronger societies. Indeed, people go to these houses not only for prayer, but also to study, attend ritual observances, receive free meals, obtain free counseling and advice, seek company, have a sense of belonging, listen to spiritual discourses and participate in community service. It's in these places of worship where people from all walks of life are welcome and people from all different social status are equal. These are all very constructive qualities that lead to the stability and prosperity of society.

Even though heavenly religions and man-made laws prohibit harm from being done to people in "houses of worship," acts of bigotry and violence have been done to the people in them. Rather than attack these sacred grounds, people should honor them as symbols of richness, harmony and civility among humanity.

Heyam Khweis owns Arabian Nights Foods and works as a math tutor at Taos High School. She and her family have lived in Taos since 1997.

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