The world has grown so much smaller with the speed of international travel and global communications. But while we have become more intimate with the rest of the world, America's understanding of foreign cultures, especially other religions, is often vague.
Two programs to increase education and understanding about our neighbors in the Cape Girardeau area who observe different religious customs are a good effort.
A panel of Muslims spoke to 200 interested individuals Wednesday night at Rose Theatre on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. Members of the audience also had an opportunity to ask straightforward questions and get equally straightforward answers.
The panel discussion complemented an open house held a couple of years ago at the Islamic Center on West End Boulevard. At that event, area residents got to meet with Muslims who live in our community, learn about the religious observances of Islam and taste some of the popular foods from cultures where Islam is prevalent.
Another event is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Christ Episcopal Church on Fountain Street. At this event, the first day of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah will be observed.
Cape Girardeau has a strong religious history that has been enriched over the years by Judaism. Even though the local synagogue has been closed due to declining numbers, there is still a Jewish component in our area that strives to observe major holidays.
There are many reasons newcomers to our area might come from Islamic or Jewish backgrounds, but both the university and Cape Girardeau's large medical community are attractions.
Those who have taken the time to put together these programs and those who have sought to improve their understanding by attending these events deserve to be thanked for their efforts and their interest. It is through knowledge that we can all become tolerant of one another and learn to appreciate the many contributions of every religious culture.