I was raised in a very religious (Roman Catholic) household, this meant church every Sunday and religious holidays, I pretty much lived at the place during Holy Week – the week before Easter. My mother is incredibly devout and attends church each morning and goes to confession (where you ask God for forgiveness for your sins) each week – the average Catholic might go a couple times a year. I was an Altar Boy till I was 18, taught Sunday school and sang in the choir but after I left school, like many young people, I lost my faith. I continued attending church on special occasions along with my family, mostly for my mother’s sake, but largely I turned my back on my religion.
Then a few years later I moved from London up to Liverpool and felt a strange desire to attend church on a Sunday again. I had not rediscovered my faith but being so far from home I found comfort in the familiarity of the services. The smells, the sounds, the rituals all made me feel closer to my family and my mother in particular. For those who have not been brought up in a religious household the practices can seem strange, merely a set of peculiar rituals and habits. However, for those who have been raised in this environment these ‘rituals’ are strong connections to our family, community and history.
This month I have found it wonderful to observe our Muslim students and colleagues observing the holy month of Ramadan, learning about their culture and rituals. From a chat with Ms Manjra about the feast she is preparing for her family, to numerous conversations with Mr Umarji about crescent moons regarding when Eid would fall.
Muslims believe that Ramadan teaches them to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate, thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat). As I mentioned at the start of the month there are many similarities between this particular act of worship and the lessons we are trying to teach our students through the ASPIRE code:
Doing the right thing when nobody’s watching
Empathy for others
Respect for those who are observing
The study of religion is the study of the human condition, whether or not you are a person of faith. Learning more about one another’s culture, beyond the negative headlines that so often dominate the discourse about religion, is vital to understanding each other better. This empathy is a key component of becoming a successful citizen, and why religious education takes a central role at King’s.
So, to all members of our community who will be celebrating this week, I wish you and your families a peaceful and joyous few days and simply say ‘Eid Mubarak’.