Lessons learned from a pilgrimage

David Busch and David Busch

I’m not Christian, Muslim or even Jewish, but something called me to the Holy Land. I walked out of my hostel, still shivering from my cold shower. I did not know what to expect of Jerusalem that evening. It was Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. I first meandered through the Jewish quarter, where I heard the singing of prayers before Shabbat dinner; and although I couldn’t understand the language, there was something incredibly powerful in it. It filled me with a strange, but wonderful, peace.

I next found myself perched on some steps in full view of the Wailing Wall. Men in full orthodox suits and beards hiding their necks joined the sea of black by the wall. And then it began: the shouting, the singing and the dancing. It was an explosion of belief in front of my eyes. Tingles crawled up my spine. After awhile, some men left the wall, and I glanced at their faces that were still full of tears. This was the power of their faith and beliefs.

I next found myself wandering through the madness of the Arab corner. Hookah smoke rose from every corner like mini chimneys in the ground, creating an aroma of a fruit garden. Kids played soccer in the middle of the streets next to a stone wall that is thousands of years old. Women passed by in their burqas, everything but their eyes hidden.

Suddenly, a moan came ringing through the city, as if God were calling everyone by name, including me. And immediately the madness stopped. People all around bent down and started their five bows toward Mecca, even an old man of at least 90, his bones cracking. My stomach felt empty.

Heading home, I heard the familiar toll of Christian church bells, odd to me in this ancient city so unlike home, the power of each ring reverberating through every bone and muscle in my body.

Once back at my hostel, I climbed to the roof, where I beheld the entire old city. I could hear the shouting from the Wailing Wall, the Muslim call for prayer and the church bell all at once. That’s when I, too, broke down and started crying. I was seeing true faith and belief in front of my eyes.

Why do I tell you this story?

This story came to me when I walked by an Evangelistic Christian at the Union recently. He pointed at me and said if I didn’t believe in Jesus, I would go to Hell. I also started to notice all the different signs for the churches around Bowling Green. Since when do we advertise for religion? In an era of Jihadist terrorist attacks, extreme Evangelistic preachers and Mel Gibson, we tend to forget what following one’s faith means.

Faith is not, like this man at the Union, saying one religion is better than another. Faith is not a trend to advertise. Instead, faith should give us kindness and love, a yearning for everyone to live a fulfilling life.

There are many different ways and paths to God. In Arabic, “col wachad” means “We are all one.” This is what we are, no matter what religion we follow or whether we believe in God. As confused souls wandering this earth, we will never know the truth about God until death calls us. If, along the way, one religion helps us get closer to God and truth, then by all means, we should follow it. But please don’t force your religion on me.

I choose to remember my night in Jerusalem, with God’s blood flowing through its street to the hearts of all her citizens.