The above picture is a common sight in many vehicles throughout Asia. I've traveled throughout China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand and I've seen countless shrines to Buddha, Vishnu, the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and countless other religious figures in both private AND public transportation. Some are simple displays like the one above. Others can be quite elaborate involving multiple statues and offerings including flowers, food, expensive bottles of alcohol, money, pictures of loved ones and images of revered political figures (Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, etc.). If it was only a matter of seeing such shrines in privately owned cars and vans then I would think nothing of it. However, the inclusion of such religious displays in public transportation got me thinking of how some would react back home in Canada if they were to step on the city bus and see the fat man, or Stephen Harper smiling at them (Is Harper capable of smiling?).
In my humble opinion, a small (but very vocal) minority in Canada cannot accept the fact that other people believe different things than they do. Therefore, they have made it their personal mission to "sanitize" every public place so they are never confronted with a worldview that is contrary to their own. Personally, I believe in Jesus Christ and would call myself a Christian, but never once did I feel threatened or uncomfortable when I entered a city bus and was greeted by the big grin and even bigger belly of Buddha. I accept the fact that other believe in different things than I do and I respect their decision to display their beliefs in a very public and prominent location.
The fact that there are so many people in Canada who claim to be adults, yet are so insecure in themselves that they can't tolerate opposing views never ceases to amaze me. Walking onto the bus and seeing a cross hanging from the rearview isn't going to magically turn you into a Christian. Stepping into the subway and noticing a goddess with eight arms and an elephant's head won't transform you into a Hindu.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but one of my favourite things about traveling around Asia is how "unsafe" and "uncomfortable" it can be. If nothing else, it only strengthens both my beliefs and my spirit. Sure, I might occasionally almost step into a sewer without a manhole cover, or be confronted with beliefs that differ radically from my own. However, my first instinct isn't to sue who's responsible or demand that someone confine their opinions and religious displays to a private place. If people back home (Canada, U.S.A., Europe, wherever) would just learn to grow up and stop blaming others for their own insecurities and mistakes, then I think our countries would be much better off for it.
In closing I'd like to pose a question: How far is too far? If a Satanist bus driver wants to hang an upside-down cross from his mirror next to a picture of Anton LaVey, would I be OK with that? Would you? Is it worthwhile to completely sanitize and child-proof a country so that we don't have to confront these problems?