Christmas is fast approaching, and thousands of Houstonians will be celebrating by going to church, festively decorating their homes or buying gifts. Yet in the diverse city of Houston, where people from many faith traditions now reside, their most sacred days are celebrated in unique ways throughout the year.
As Houston is now the nation’s most diverse region – made up of people from different races, cultural backgrounds and religions – understanding similarities and differences is imperative to welcoming strangers, building bridges and forging bonds with our neighbors, said the Rev. Greg Han, director of Interfaith Relations for IM.
To forward this effort, Han has recorded eight podcasts in which he interviews leaders representing different faith communities in Houston about how they celebrate important holidays. Located on IM’s website beginning Dec. 17, the podcasts are anything but an audio version of a world religions textbook.
Rather, they are 20 minutes of compelling stories about celebrating holy days told by those who practice well-known faiths – such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam – and less-known faiths – such as Sikhism and Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest religions. The podcasts’ goal is to showcase different faiths in narrative form and on a personal level.
Just as many Christians enjoy sharing memories of attending midnight Mass or participating in a nativity play, Hindus, Buddhists and Baha’is also have stories about their favorite holidays, Han said. “When you learn about religion, you are also learning about anthropology, sociology, literature, philosophy, and history. It’s never boring because it’s all about people and the ways we orient our lives to find meaning,” he added.
“These are experiences from people who could live next door to you,” Han added. “Understanding commonalities and differences makes different religions less foreign and less mysterious. There are many similar purposes and goals that different holidays are trying to achieve. It is often said that violence is rooted in fear, and fear is rooted in ignorance, and ignorance is rooted in misunderstandings. It is my hope that if people learn more about each other, their neighbors will not seem as different to them.”
Podcasts will represent the following faiths: Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, Unitarian Universalist and Sikhism. Additional podcasts on Buddhism and Jainism will be added soon.
All can be found at: https://www.imgh.org/podcast