Saturday, May 30, 2009

Salvation Army

I clicked the mouse, dragging the video clips backwards and forwards, trying to find the right cutting point for this scene. It plays on my mind, over and over.

Well, duh; I've been playing it over and over right in front of my very eyes.

Nevertheless, long after I had shut down the computer, and made my way back to my bed. Trying to find my way back to sleep heaven, I still find myself mulling it over and over. Turning my mind even further back, I realised what it was that had previously plagued my friend.

The documentary tells the tale of a refugee kid from Myanmar. We follow him as he goes for his medical check-up, plays football with his friends, and...attend religious class. Well, I am not sure what sort of class it was (if it was a class to begin with), but we do have a Christian lady standing in front of the class, and telling little children not to forget to pray to Jesus Christ every night before they sleep, and every morning when they wake up. I watched with disinterest (I believe it was the third almost four hours worth of footage), before my mind momentarily flickered back, and really inadvertently paid attention to what was going on.

How likely is it that a Myanmar kid is born and bred a Christian? Aren't most of them Buddhists to begin with? More to the point, is she trying to convert to them? It wouldn't be unheard of, given how crazy some can be on this front.

It was then that I realised how ignorant I was about Myanmar. Later on, I did a quick Google search, and apparently there is a history of persecution of Christians in the country, which makes for an interesting enough reading on another day. Nevertheless, in the moment when I wondered whether I was witnessing refugee kids being converted or whether its merely a continuation of the exploration of their beliefs, it did bring to mind of how far I would go.

It reminded me of the dilemma that my afore-mentioned friend was previously in. We had shot a video together for a cigarette company earlier this year. It wasn't a direct advert or anything like that, but needless to say, it is something that would help to further advance the sales of cancer sticks. Though he didn't tell me at the time, I later read on his blog that he had, on some level, did some soul-searching, wondering whether it was right for him to make such a video. He himself is a smoker, but would advancing such ideals in such a way unto others be something he's comfortable with?

And now we're here, finally, at the main point of this post: how right is it for us to offer our salvation unto others?

How right is it for us to force our own beliefs unto others, however sincere we may be? I suppose, in a way, that would apply to almost all the ways in which we are brought up. Not just on religious terms, but also within other spheres and aspects of society. The indoctrination of what are essentially the values of others.

I suppose in that way, I open myself up to the same self-examination: are my values something that I had sought for myself? Or is it the Qur'an lessons that I had from young? Truth be told, I had my moments of questioning. It is, I believe, a very fine tradition encouraged from the early days of not only Islam, Christianity, and other religions, but also humanity itself. After all, if the earliest human beings had not wondered why, figured out how, and thought through the whats, we wouldn't quite be where we are here today, would we?

I had went through that, and in a way, I still am. I finished reading the Qur'an twice, but did not understand it (Arabic, dammit!). I am currently making my through it once again (alternating, it has to be said, with '101 Habits of Successful Screenwriters' right now), but in English this time. In some ways of my own, I am making much progress in terms of trying to understand more of my own religion. It is one that I am have lived with my whole life, and yet at times it feels like a stranger to me. Figuring out the difference between cultural influences and religious ones, between Modern Islam (I'm looking at you, my London-Turkish friends), Islam Hadhari (ditto, Pak Lah) and the rest, it is not an easy task. There is, it has to be mentioned, a lot of bullshit to sift through. A shit-load.

Nevertheless, one truth holds true, and rings louder than the rest: that my understanding is my own understanding. My belief is my own fort, my knowledge my weapon of choice, my strength my defence.

That my salvation is my own.

It is not what others have thrown unto me, but what I have found by myself. I realise that whatever the answer, it is something that we should figure out by ourselves. It is not to jam down throats with, either our own or that of others.

As I shut my eyes and turn in for the night (morning?), I pray that people everywhere, Myanmar refugee kids included, will be given the chance to find their own peace, their own answers, their own salvation.

Assalamualaikum.

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