If one truly believes that they’re created in the image of God, how then does one express that outward manifestation of those Godly values and standards? As Mahatma Gandhi once advised the various religious sects of Indians he was leading to their independence from British imperial rule in the 1940s, “God has no religion”, but God respects those who respect themselves.
The Mahatma stressed that cleanliness of the whole population was a key variable in the equation for freedom.
Self-respect and cleanliness happen to be the religious mantra some nations believe sincerely – through their actions, and others disregard – through their inactions.
On that note, show me a culture that is clean, and I’d show you a culture that respects the image of God represented in themselves. That is the litmus test. To think mere prayers, songs, praises, and miracles will clean the environment, and protect a nation’s children is the most childish wish ever conceived by any religion.
Suffer the children to come unto me
What standards do we use in raising children? Show me a culture that respects its own children, and I’d show you a people that truly believe in God. One of the key aspects in the school of education, training for my teaching credentials in the U.S. was a basic course in Children’s Safety and Environment. The physical environment of the school speaks to the contribution that safe, clean, and comfortable surroundings make to a positive school climate in which students can learn.
As they say, to know where any nation is going in the future, watch how it treats its own children. For such reasons, whenever I travel to other parts of the world, I habitually visit some schools there to see how the children fared. I check particularly for the respect, love and attention the adults showered on the children. I watch their playgrounds, toilets, and classrooms.
Children need to be respected, and every culture or religion of value must support the protection and provision for all its children. Respect for children must not be a concern of only a handful of nations; it must spread like wild blessings raging through every nook and cranny of every culture. How else must we raise future leaders for Africa?
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Lessons from a Buddhist elementary school
After a particular trip to Bangkok, Thailand, I noted in a column titled, “The plight of the Ghanaian child: A plea to the better angels in the nation’s leaders, chiefs, officials and parents,” that the adage “Cleanliness is godliness” was clearly a way of life in the Buddhist school I visited. The spiritual, reverential and courteous discipline was exemplary. In a corner of the school was a Buddhist shrine kept immaculately polished and clean, and adorned with aromatic flowers such as jasmines, lilies, and roses. That sacred corner set the tone for the rest of the school’s emotional and physical environment.
As you entered the premises, “the open spaces in the front of the school doubled as playgrounds for the kids. For that purpose, the whole wide floors were padded with soft plastic mats to cushion the children from hurting themselves when they fell, as they were wont to do. The toilets were clean and amply supplied with toilet paper, towels, and water for the kids to wash and wipe their hands after use. Lucky kids!”
The Japanese example
I remember, years back, watching a TV interview of a Japanese environmentalist in New York, who was asked to advise how to keep the city clean. She answered quite simply, Imagine every person stoop to pick one piece of litter off the ground!
The recent 2018 world cup in Moscow showed just how clean and respectful the Japanese people are. Despite their defeat by Belgium that took them out of the games, it was reported that “they took the time to clean their locker room. They even left it in a better state than they found it. Always classy, the Japanese team also left a message for the World Cup organizers, saying ‘Thank you’ in Russian.”
A FIFA general coordinator admitted her admiration through a picture of the Japanese dressing room after losing to Belgium in the 94th minute. What an example for all teams! While the Japanese players and staff set an example, after every one of their games, Japanese fans took the time to clean the stands; a rare elegance that is a part of their way of life.
More than a way of life, it’s a part of their Shinto and Buddhist culture. As was reported, “Japan has given a lot to football lovers and will continue to do so for a long time. Whether it’s the players, or fans, Japanese have always been irreproachable – No cheating, no spitting, no insults, no foul play, no arguing, no diving, simply, respect for others always. But their good manners don’t only extend to football. The entire country is always respectable.”
The Japanese culture has a lot going for it: “Smoking on the streets, littering, blowing your nose in public, interrupting someone, raising your voice, all that doesn’t exist in Japan. The reason? Politeness. Respecting others is always important to the Japanese, including their football players. They lost at the last second to Belgium, but the Japanese team won the admiration of all football fans. And that, is no small victory.” Amen!