A Muslim, A Jew, and Jesus Christ: City Tour of Rio de Janeiro

Ali Khan
May 16, 2016
Outside of an interreligious dialogue, the three together may sound a bit strange, right? Not in Rio.

In our city tour, we visited the Christ the Redeemer, Escadaria Selaron, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian.

I remember our guide, Vanessa, shared that the Cariocas originally planned to have the Christ the Redeemer statue holding a cross in one hand and a soccer ball in the other. Instead, they rejected this idea and substituted with today’s iconic landscape image of Rio. A statue situated high in the mountains that is outstretching both arms to the city, symbolizing hospitality to all people of the world.

Khan1 Khan2

After visiting the statue, we took a trip to Rio’s night scene area, Lapa to experience the Escadaria Selaron. These colorful steps are made of plaques each given to Rio from cities like Karachi, Pakistan to Boulder, Colorado, and everywhere in between. There were also plaques representing world religions, cultural art, and famous international celebrities. Next, we visited the Cathedral. It is one of the biggest Catholic churches in Rio and features a Mayan-pyramid architectural style. Although the church holds Christian services every Sunday, it is also used as a historical museum and reflective space for those of all faiths. This appreciation and inclusion of diversity is shown throughout the whole city. From the Portuguese, native Brazilian, and West African mix to the integration of Japanese, Italian, German, and Arab immigrant communities, Rio’s blends of culture have shaped the city into a vibrant community that is shown throughout the street’s architecture, Carioca cuisine, and multilingualism.

Like the city, we each come from such unique backgrounds that allow us to constantly learn from each other and grow together into a family that is ready to also transform the UW Madison community. Only in Rio, I, a Muslim, took a picture with my Jewish friend in front of a statue of Jesus Christ.