My dad was here for a brief three-day visit last week on his way to Cameroon to teach a one-week course to pastors. It was three great days of showing him my life, work, and city. On Wednesday, we went out to to the countryside to visit my friends, the Carrolls. On Thursday, I took him to work with me (We joked that we had come a long way since the old “Take Your Daughter to Work” days at NASA).
On Friday, I took the day off to spend more time with him. I laid out all the options:
“We could go to Lake Victoria, or to an island beach, or see monkeys at the zoo, or go to the botanical gardens…”
Dad: “Well, was that a mosque I saw earlier? And a Hindu temple? Could we just go see those places?”
Well sure, we can go on an educational tour of the major world religions. I mean, what else would you do with a dad who’s in the final stages of getting his Doctorate of Missiology? And Kampala is a pretty great place to get your fill of religious sites from around the world.
Our first stop was the National Mosque, started by Idi Amin and finished by Qaddafi a few years ago. I had been there a few months ago, and had to rent two scarves to cover my legs and hair. This time, I was prepared, and even color-coordinated my outfit! It was fun to go to a mosque with my dad and compare notes on worship and prayer in Islam.
The second stop was the Hindu temple. I know very little about Hinduism, so here my dad was the expert. When we walked in, the place was fairly bare and not very exciting. Soon, a guy dressed totally in white popped his head around a mysterious huge curtain, gave a huge smile, and welcomed us eagerly, with very little English and a whole lot of head nodding. He asked us to wait while he finished prayers, then drew back the curtain to reveal a whole array of statues decked out in bright clothes.
Before we knew it, we had red dots on our head and were being offered water to pour over one of the statues. I had a minor crisis moment “What do I do? I can’t feed an idol!!!” But then I remembered my dad was with me, and if this totally-new-unexpected-religious-cultural-experience was okay with him, well, it was okay with me. (Side note: my dad compared the whole day to the Amazing Race, but at this moment in time, it felt much more like Eat Pray Love, Indian-devotee style.)
Our last stop, the Baha’i temple, was a fitting conclusion to our day of touring the major world religions. There is only one Baha’i temple on each continent, so it’s rather amazing that Africa decided to build its temple in Kampala. It’s a beautiful classical-style structure, set apart on a quiet hillside overlooking the city. Our guide was very eager to share his faith with us, and explained that he had been a Muslim, but grew tired of all the animosity between Christians and Muslims, so he joined the Baha’i faith as a happy middle ground.
The temple itself was really beautiful, as were the Psalms and reflections of Baha’ullah, the founder of Baha’i who lived in the 1800s. Originally a Muslim also, Baha’ullah decided to create a religion that emphasized the love of God by drawing on all the great spiritual thinkers throughout history (Moses, Jesus, Zoroaster, Confucius, Buddha, and Muhammad among others). I think if I had to create a man-made religion that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, this would be it. But thank goodness that faith isn’t about creating a religion that makes everyone happy – it’s all about Jesus!