Oct 12, 2011

Theology 101 For Preschoolers

Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim (Goa)
Two common and connected themes regularly run through our travels thus far—religion and theology.  In SEA, South Asia, and India they do not just exist 1 day a week in ‘special buildings’ but are overtones in the day to day life.  Buddhism was the main one in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bali, where daily offering rituals with incense are made by its followers and their orange and red-robed monks seek food and alms in the streets.  Hinduism is India’s main religion and represents approximately 82% of its population (LP. South India, 2009).  Aside from the many colourful temple ‘gopurams’, some which soar high into the sky, religious processions can often be seen (and heard) dancing through the neighbourhood.  Muslims are represented in all of the countries that we’ve visited.  Their mosques stand distinctive as do their clothing, particularly when the women are in full hajab.  Catholicism is the main practice in the Philippines, in Vietnam and parts of South India, especially in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala & Goa.  We’ve visited so many churches, cathedrals and basilicas, especially while in India, each unique and beautiful.  It was just a matter of time before our ever-observant and ever-inquisitive children began to question what all this was about.  

Se Caterina Cathedral, Old Goa (Goa)

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Pondicherry (Tamil Nadu)
Inside Church at Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu)
Lourdes Church, Trichy (Tamil Nadu)

While we have a basic general knowledge about the first 3 religions, it’s Catholicism that we probably should and do know more about, according to our families at least. And so it started.  I inadvertently say, ‘Jesus’, (but not in a nice way).  I catch myself, and clarify for the offspring (OS) present that, ‘Jesus is a grown-up word, please don’t say it unless you are in church or speaking about Baby Jesus.’ OS:Mommy, who is Baby Jesus?’  ‘That’s Him on the cross.’  OS:Why is He on the cross?’  I think the term of what has just occurred is known in the ‘parents’ circles’ as ‘unschooling’:  learning unconventionally, in our case through experiences gained as a result of our travels.  We’ve covered the ‘Stations of the Cross’ as well as Death, Heaven, Hell, Angels, God (versus the many Hindu gods) the true meaning of Christmas and Easter and even the subject of reincarnation.  The discussions reignite with every church and (to a lesser degrees) temple we go into, but sometimes just randomly through our day too especially if we have ‘down-time’ like while walking, riding on a scooter or sitting on a bus/train/tuk tuk.  

Inside Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort Cochin (Kerala)

Shrine on street corner, Fort Cochin (Kerala)

I am happy to report that I have remembered a surprisingly amount of theology from many years of religious education that I am passing on to my children.  I had never envisioned that I would ever be doing this, given that I haven’t been ‘practicing’ for years.  If we hadn’t gone one this trip, I’m not convinced that these conversations would have occurred anyway.  In Australia, we just wouldn’t be visiting so many churches and religion in general isn’t as ‘present’ day to day in ‘western’ society.  Not sure where this road will lead but if it continues, we may have to seek ‘professionals’ when we get home to better answer their questions!

At Nha Trang, Vietnam

Buddhist Monks, Kampot (Cambodia)
Catholic Church, Vigan (Philippines)

Hindu Festival, Colombo (Sri Lanka)
Biggest Temple in India, Sri Ranganathaswamy (Trichy)

Hindu tradition in Tamil Nadu & Karnataka to bring good fortune and wealth


  1. Fantastic thoughts and photos, it's such a challenge to present options rather than brainwashing to little ones isn't it!

  2. And travel offers an abundance of options to present too! We found the real challenge was to be able to offer a bit of an explaination without being too in-depth or too vague in light of the 3.5yr old and 5yr old audience!

    Thanks for visiting and your comment Natasha!