How to support friends from other faiths

Mibu Tako

Although Marymount is a Catholic school, its students’ cultural and religious backgrounds are extremely diverse. There is a sense of community established amongst people who follow  Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and other religions. This article would provide you the opportunity to reflect on how you interact with friends who have different faiths and beliefs. One significant example associated with this topic is Ramadan: one of the holiest months for nearly 1.6 billion Muslims living around the world.

Starting off by the definition of Ramadan, Ramadan is the ninth  month of the Islamic calendar, which is believed to be when Qur’an (the Islamic holy book) was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad. During Ramadan, most Muslims fast at daytime, in order to strengthen self-discipline and devotion to their faith. It is a month that allows Muslims to feel closer to God and to consolidate their spiritual health.

The first thing that we can do to show solidarity with friends from different religions is to have a deeper understanding of their rituals and events. Particularly with regards to Ramadan, it is vital to understand that Ramadan is not a celebration. Whilst “Happy Ramadan!” sounds like a friendly greeting, it is not exactly the appropriate language. Muslims mainly use “Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem”, which translates as wishing someone a Blessed Ramadan. That being said, the perfect timing to ‘celebrate’ an Islamic holiday is right after Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr is one of the biggest festivals where Muslims celebrate the ‘breaking of the Fast’. In the Middle East, many attend prayers at their mosque and gather with their family members to enjoy large meals. Even though you may not be a part of the Islamic community, it is always essential to show a positive attitude when learning about these factors of other religions.

Another crucial point that we must take into account, is that “faith is not a monolith” (Jumarali, 2016). We must never categorize a religion into one simple group, as people have different perspectives when it comes to their religious beliefs. For instance, some Muslims appreciate not seeing others eating while they fast, whereas others willingly stay with those who are eating, as they can feel less hungry. Rituals in any religion can be extremely personal, which is why we must be considerate and should ask questions if necessary.

Najla, a Muslim student in grade 10 commented on how she feels very appreciative when her friends encourage her while fasting. She explained: “Even though I’m not surrounded by people who are in the same position as me, I still feel supported and uplifted.”

As students who are constantly surrounded by people from various backgrounds, we must embrace this opportunity to expand our knowledge on different religions around the world. A good community-building is only possible when we communicate with respect and encouragement towards one another.