Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, by James Portelli

Following on the first piece in this series, “Life Is a Journey: Siezehheim to Santiago,” in this piece I will be writing about some of my resolutions, starting with “Loving my Neighbor.”

After my first day of meetings at the office in Salzburg, I went back to the guesthouse, changed into my walking gear, and headed out to Maria Plain. The receptionist at the guesthouse expressed some doubt as to whether I would make it to Maria Plain on foot.

Long story short, I set out at around 5:00 p.m., and by 6:30 p.m. I had walked from Siezenheim, through Salzburg, and uphill to the historic church of Maria Plain.

SantaMariaPlain1Visibility was crystal clear, and so I was rewarded with spectacular views of the country and mountains. I was also rewarded because the church was open, and I could pause in silent reflection in front of the Blessed Sacrament and admire the splendor of the church and its art.

SantaMariaPlain2  SantaMariaPlain3

But the true jewel on the crown of this mini adventure was identifying the starting point of the Salzburg Camino de Santiago (Jakobsweg) on the hill of Maria Plain. From there I followed the waymarks into Altstadt Salzburg (Salzburg’s old town).

While I was still in the church, a gentleman walked up to me and introduced himself as a South Indian priest pursuing further theological studies in Salzburg. He asked me where I was from. This led to a conversation on Christian tradition of the Apostles Paul and Thomas evangelizing Malta and India respectively in the very early days of Christianity.

Following the Camino waymarks into Altstadt Salzburg (immortalized for many in the movie The Sound of Music), I pondered how countries, such as Malta and India, that are worlds apart in history and culture share some heritage after all.

Following the waymarks into Altstadt Salzburg   Following the waymarks into Altstadt Salzburg

Following the waymarks into Altstadt Salzburg

Closer to town, I walked past several people. My experience made me think that at the end of the day, despite our diverse creed or ethnicity, we are not that different. This realization was reinforced by the sheer number of people of all nationalities and from all walks of life, all doing fundamentally the same thing, that is, enjoying themselves on a warm evening and in a friendly environment along the riverbank leading to the old town of Salzburg.

Indeed, at the end of the day, we are not that different.

Prejudice is triggered by preconceived notions, which, in turn, are born out of ignorance, one’s own ignorance or that which is transferred from influential people around us. It is so easy to label people. But not all Muslims are fundamentalists; not all Catholic priests are pedophiles; not all politicians are corrupt. There is simply no such thing as a race being ignorant, chauvinist, or bloodthirsty in its entirety.

An absolute, wherever it is applied—from perfect competition in economics to attributes that we believe the Almighty possesses—either exists in theory only or is assigned to Divinity.

Jakobsweg waymarks along the river, Salzburg

Jakobsweg waymarks along the river, Salzburg

For example, what made Ghandi claim “I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity”? Not only are these wise words, but they are also universal. If you substitute the word “Christianity” with, say, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism, you will find the essence of each and every faith as well as the pure meaning of humanity. All creeds and religions, without exception, uphold faith, hope, love, and charity. These are not obligations to which we subject ourselves; these are values we should all embrace. Unless we practice what we preach (or pray), why profess in the first place? E. Stanley Jones writes more about Ghandi’s views on Christianity in The Christ of the Indian Road (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1925). Probably the two most indicting statements made by the Indian sage were the following:

“I suggest that one puts more emphasis on love, because love is the soul and centre of Christianity”; and

“I suggest that one studies the non-Christian religions more sympathetically in order to find the  good that is in them so that one might have a more sympathetic approach to other people.”

Ghandi’s words encourage a heightened and acute sense of awareness and understanding of who is our neighbor.

Altstadt Salzburg

Altstadt Salzburg


JamesPortelliJames Portelli is an occasional guest author on this blog who wrote route reports about his recent experience on the Camino Inglés.  Read more of James’s posts:

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