It’s as peaceful as peanut butter and jelly with the way that the two separate parts come together to create something new with the combination of its tart and sweet flavors while still being two very different things. Somewhere along the cool refreshing and slowly moving Volga river in the heart of Russia, the republic of Tatarstan has brought together two religions that has also stood side-by-side one another in its history.
The small town of Tatarstan, located approximately 800 kilometers east of Moscow, has had its fair share of war and exploration along Russia’s largest river, which has and is still being used for transport. “The Volga helped us to conquer new lands in the Middle Ages and its importance as a connecting thread between the centuries and civilizations, between the people, cultures and religions of those who live on its banks, is invaluable,” Yevgeniya Novikova, a Tatarstan tourism expert explains, but the river has shaped the land around it in another way as well.
According to the article, “Tatarstan: a confluence of culture and religion,” “Tatarstan sees itself an example of successful multiculturalism,” and it rightfully should with the combination of two cultures, the Russian Orthodox culture and the Islam-based Tatar culture, like the interesting elements that are involved inside of a PB&J, the two cultures aren’t mixed like cream in a cup of coffee, but rather in a way that keeps them separate while inspiring and moving each other into a peaceful co-existence.
The island town is now coming back to life as the town’s people and is beginning to restore the 16th century ruins of Sviyazhsk and its Cathedral walls and ceilings full of decaying frescoes. Several hundred miles downstream the Volga in the town of Bolgar, the capital of the Tatars’ historical ancestors who converted from paganism to the religion of Islam brought by Arab missionaries in early 10th century, the mosques sit peacefully next to its Russian Orthodox neighbors, there, where the “exact place and time Islam started to spread throughout Europe and Siberia.”
The area shared controlled of most of “the trade between Europe and Asia before its decline in the 13th century,” and now the Tatarstan Island, which houses Bolgar and Sviyazhsk, are being restored to “preserve and study the monuments of the two religions that have co-existed in [the] land for centuries, side by side.” It’s really religious tolerance at its best, and it makes you wonder why we don’t see this everywhere there’s more than one religion residing in the area.
The real point of religion is to promote peace. The “collection of cultural and belief systems, and our worldviews which relate humanity to spirituality and moral values,” as defined in by Wikipedia, is our deeper construction of religion along with the complex and unique “narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe.” But at the heart of religion there’s a way of life that calls for the people on this planet to love and respect one another and to always try their best to the right thing.
Religion is supposed to be a lot like the Tatarstan Island where two religions and cultures, although different, sit peacefully together side-by-side as if they were peanut butter and jelly. So why don’t we see this peaceful coexistence of different religions everywhere else?