Thursday, 11 July 2013

Summer of spirituality

I've been working on the National Citizens Service. The last day of the programme was also the first day of Ramadan for the Muslim youths participating, so I decided to join them in solidarity to the fact that they would not be able to eat any of the food at the party being thrown for them and their mates. I'm actually going to be doing the whole month of Ramadan this year and many of my old friends have come out to congratulate me already. It's only been one day!

The core reason why I decided to do it however began on Day 2 of the NCS. A comment by a young person sparked a 4 hour discussion about religion, spirituality and morality between 2 teams of 11 youths (22 in total). From that night, those two separate teams were one big family whereby my colleague and I couldn't distinguish the difference. In my opinion this was because they understood each others perspective. Later in the programme a young lad from my team, who had also been in that marathon discussion was inquiring more about Ramadan. He decided that he "could do it, that's easy". Of course come the day of fasting, he forgot himself a few times but tried to stay true to his fast when he was aware. It's up to you to decide if he officially fasted or not, for me his greatest achievement is understanding his friends better, understanding other communities and religions better. It took me back to thinking of that marathon discussion where one girl asked (I'm paraphrasing) "why are Muslims so violent?" After schooling her on the politics of information I told her and anyone else who was listening that the most important thing about being on a programme like the NCS - although they won't promote it as such - is to explore and discover other cultures, be challenged on one's opinion of someone's religion and be challenged on your opinion of your own religion.

Y'know when Lent comes round, since the UK is a Christian country, we are all asked no matter our faith to consider giving something up, to join in a religious festival and seek to be better people through it. Ramadan speaks so much more to those values for me, because you don't give up just one thing (for which I've often supplemented another) you give up everything, as Christ did. Young people should be encouraged in our schools to partake in Ramadan and to give up something (if everything is too impossible) the same way they are implored to partake in Lent. I reckon like the young lad they would find that it's not very easy, that their friends are extremely strong people who respect something much greater than material worth and that it doesn't take away from who you are to find value in what someone else is or believes in.

Ramadan Mubarak. God Bless.

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