For World Religion Day, we wanted to get a better understanding of the religions around us so we can become more aware, and learn about how different faiths practice their religion. It is important to take the time to both be curious, and to share our differences, so that we can appreciate others, and do our best to include them. So in order to celebrate our diversity, and create actions towards being positive towards more inclusive workplaces, we submitted peer-written questions to a panel of volunteers at Aspire, who answered from the perspective of their own religious beliefs.
To what extent does food/fasting figure in your religion and why?
Kamini: I am a Hindu thus we do fast but more so in a vegetarian kinda way. Like for certain prayer days and occasions, we tend to be vegetarian and not eat meat.
Andrea: For me personally, I observe Lent, but of late haven’t given up something, but tried to DO something. I know others will eat lamb on Easter, fish on Fridays, but I wasn’t brought up that way (other than a chippie on a Friday as that was easier for my working mum, not religious-based!)
Ravina: I am a Sikh, and food is often shared to celebrate occasions. Most religious of us are strict vegetarians, but I do not follow it as strictly and I eat almost anything. We are also taught to give food to the poor, our neighbours, and anyone. Food is always available for all who enter our place of worship, the Gurudwara.
How does your faith help you deal with difficult situations?
Amadeus: For my religion (Christian) believing in god is sometimes used as a way to go through difficult situations in life. However, I do not practice religion as much (if at all), and so I do not use religion as a way of dealing with problems. Instead, I prefer to rely on my instincts and do whatever I feel is necessary to deal with any problem I may face.
Kamini: Not at all. It has always remained the same
Andrea: A problem shared is a problem halved, and the same is true for me, setting out a problem, talking it through with myself/in prayer will focus my mind, the simple act of saying the problem often makes it manageable.
Ravina: I do not pray often but sometimes when I get worried or scared. I have thanked God for being so blessed with very little to worry about in comparison to others who have much less.
Samatha: Having faith is comforting and makes me feel like I have someone watching over me during difficult situations and tough times.
Has your relationship with (or views of your) religion changed over the years?
Amadeus: After the age of about 6, I stopped practicing the traditional habits of Christians i.e. doing the cross, going to church on Sunday etc. unless I absolutely had to.
Azra: Growing up I think I was very confused between my culture (Pakistani) and my religion (Islam) and this was quite difficult in my teens and twenties as I didn’t have a good relationship with Islam as a result. As I have become older I have spent a lot of my time educating myself, reading books, the Quran (holy book), and speaking to my friends who have done courses in Islam and would be classed as a people of knowledge. Growing up there are so many things my parents told me that was wrong, through no fault of their own as generations teach generations and it’s all they knew. The stand out thing and the thing I struggled with growing up is how women seem to be treated in my religion, lesser of the genders and having no rights. But actually, women’s rights in Islam are insane!! My money is my money and nobody else’s, I get a share in inheritance, I have the right to education and to work and the list goes on and on. I educate my mum as a result and sometimes I tell her things she never knew as I want her to feel empowered. I have grown to love my religion as I take the culture away and find out what it actually stands for. BTW love my culture- we have the best food, I have the ability to speak a second language and wear some very pretty traditional clothes.
Peter: Identified as Christian till late teens. Now consider myself agnostic, don't believe in religion but I do believe in spirituality.
Andrea: I was brought up with a Christian mother and agnostic father, we were carted to Sunday School every week. Once I hit high school I stopped going to church as often, but was still confirmed. I was married in a church and 1 of my children is christened (the other has covid as his excuse), but I no longer attend church on a regular basis and I do find my faith gets lost in the modern busy world.
Ravina: Yes it has. I was bought up to visit the Gurudwara once a week. Life gets in the way but also laziness can too. To run a Gurudwara, it takes a committee of people, it needs money too, and they’re not afraid to ask for it. As I’ve got older I worry it is too business-like, but it also does need funds to stay open and feed others. I am a very British Sikh, so my culture means I follow my religion less and less, but still hold it very dear to myself in my own way.
How do you manage to keep the faith and keep believing when bad things are happing in the world?
Amadeus: I do not attribute bad events to religion.
Kamini: I do pray and even when bad things are happening in the world, I try to stay positive for there’s always a solution for everything even if not in the short run, but there will be down the road.
Azra: This is a really hard question as there is so much bad and hurt in the world. My very simple and personal view is I have been blessed with so much that I need to think about how I can give back to those who are going through the bad stuff. I’ve learned that this can be a small action like if I’m in the supermarket I buy a tin for the food bank, I don’t know whose going to get that tin but it’s somebody who needs it. Or it could be a bigger action like raising money for those destitute overseas or sending my old clothes to widows abroad. I just have to find a way to help and use my blessings to help others. If I look at religious people in the worst of situations they always seem to keep their faith and say this is their test from God.
Andrea: Bad things have always happened, religion is often the cause of lots of bad things too, but the hope that there is something greater and it's all planned brings me some comfort.
How much does your faith guide the decisions and life choices you make?
Azra: I think most of the decisions I make are guided by my religion, sometimes I could pray for something and seek guidance for really heavy decisions I need to make or other life choices I just know I can/ cannot do. For example, a couple of years ago I was in a bad place personally and professionally. So I sought guidance from my creator and said ‘ I know I’m not happy, I don’t know right now what will make me happy but just guide me’ and eventually after 6-12 months I quit with nothing to go to, it didn’t feel like a scary decision because I trusted that I was doing the right thing. Now when I look back I can see it put me on the path to so many great things happening. There are other things I just know I can’t do like drinking or eating pork, I don’t even think about- I can’t drink/eat it and it never tempts me.
Peter: I have spiritual beliefs vs. religious ones, but ultimately they help me recognise all I can control is how I respond to situations. For everything else, I believe that the universe has my best interests at heart and things will eventually work out in a way that’s good for me.
Andrea: Unfortunately not as much I’d like it too anymore. It’s something you need to remind yourself of in this modern busy world.
How has your faith had an effect on how you have managed the last 2 years with the pandemic?
Amadeus: No effect.
Fabian: Religion allowed me to open up and share my worries, anxiety, stress, fears etc to a ‘higher power’. In most cases, we tend to bottle up our worries for fear of being judged. Some of us turn to close friends to rant or exercise for stress management. The lock-down, the lack of privacy at home coupled with social restrictions took a major toll on mental health and I’m glad that religion provided me with a route to rise above the chaos.
Kamini: I pray hard and I know God watches over all of us. I tell myself to be patient and have faith that situation will normalise someday and compared to 2 years ago, the situation has gotten a lot better. So basically for me, I just leave it to god. Believing in him.
Andrea: Yes, again, a problem shared is a problem halved and I have turned to prayer as my son was attempting to arrive at 31 weeks.
Samantha: Having a faith has helped me to stay positive and accepting during times of uncertainty.
Were you born into a religion/ faith or have you found it as you got older?
Amadeus: Born into it.
Alex: I am a Christian, born in the religion. As a child, I attended church with my mother, and that has changed through the years. I don't go that often anymore, but it's still in our culture.
Matthew: I was born and raised by catholic parents but strayed away from the religion relatively early at the age of 12. Currently don’t have any religion or beliefs
Kamini: Yes inherited and even if I had a choice I would not have chosen one of my own accords. To be very honest, I am respectful to all religions, and even being Hindu, I go to the church and Chinese temples here in Singapore. In that sense, I like what I have inherited and I respect that but as a human being, I still worship all the gods.
Peter: Born into a Christian family, left behind Christianity in late teens and discovered spirituality just as the pandemic kicked in.
Andrea: Born into it.
Is your faith inherited or did you chose your particular faith yourself? If inherited, do you believe that you would have chosen your faith on your own accord?
Alex: In my case, it is inherited. If I had the option to choose it, it would be the same. I identify with the teachings, even though not all are without question. I try to extract what will be applicable today.
Katarzyna: Yes I came from a Catholic family, as well as a country (Poland follows a Catholic religious path in 87%) And No I would not see myself diverting to another religion. I am happy with what I believe.
Andrea: Born into it, and probably.
How do you deal with negative connotations associated with your religion which are portrayed by the press or on social media?
Amadeus: I don’t even have time to look at that.
Andrea: I probably hide that I have faith, I was laughed at this week when I said I believe, as they didn’t think I was “the type.” I’m not a fan of overt religiousness, not a fan of people pushing it on others, to be fair, I turn away from religious content on social media.
Ravina: In the media, Sikh people have not had it easy. I can also imagine that for young children who do follow the religion closely, i.e. boys would keep their hair long, have it so tough to grow up and not be ridiculed by it. As a second-generation British Sikh, I feel more British than I do Sikh, but it is very hurtful that people who are better at following my religion than I am, find it tough because of the way others have treated them, or spoke about them on social media.
We hope this has been just as interesting and engaging for you to read how some of our employees follow their religion, and encourage everyone to get involved and do something similar for World Religion Day. While religion is personal, it is key that employers recognise the value that some of their employees, and customers may hold dear, and impact the way they live, work, and interact with others.
Aspire is committed to being positive for diversity and inclusion. You can read our policy here: Diversity & Inclusion.
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