Practicing religions at WHHS
May 16, 2023
What are your daily religious practices?
“I like to try and pray every day for something, and I also like to remind myself what I’m thankful for when I’m praying because I think it’s important to recognize what God has set for you,” Maya Sampath, ’25, said.
Who do you pray to?
“In Hinduism, we believe in multiple deities, so there are several different gods that we pray to and each represents different things,” Sampath said. “So if I’m praying for something in particular, like illness, or finances, or something like that, there’s different gods that [I] pray to.”
As a Hindu, What are some questions people ask you?
‘I sometimes get people asking me if I’m actually religious, or if it’s just my parents forcing me to do it,” Sampath said. ” I’m not being forced to be religious. My parents never forced anything on me if I decided that I didn’t want to be Hindu anymore, I think they would be okay with that. It’s important to know that religion is your choice and it’s really what you believe.”
Is there any way the school environment could improve to help you practice your religion?
“I personally feel comfortable because my religion doesn’t really require anything that would conflict with schooling and my education, but I definitely know that some other religions such as Islam… I feel like they could have a room [for] all religions to participate in prayer,” Sampath said. “So I think that it’s important that students and teachers are considerate of other students’ religion.”
What draws you to Hinduism?
“[Hinduism] gives me hope and an outlet to express how I’m feeling, and I think it’s important that whether people practice religion or not, they have something to look forward to and something that provides them strength in life,” Sampath said. “So when something is not going right in their life… they have some way of ensuring themselves that there’s a reason for it and that it will get better.”
What are hardships of practicing Islam at WHHS?
“The people that I’m around a lot of the time [are] really anti religion, very liberal and radical people, so it’s hard to express my beliefs as someone who’s religious and sticks to her beliefs,” Rahifa Maricar, ’26, said.
How do you think the school could improve to help you practice Islam?
“I would say raising awareness because not a lot of people know about Islam and [the] things that we do and why we do them,” Maricar said. “I feel like if people actually understood why we do some things, we would get less judgment, [and] more understanding from people.”
What keeps you close to Islam?
“My Grandparents, because they’re really strict [Muslims], but they don’t force anything upon me, they let me do it at my own pace,” Diabou Fall, ’24, said.
What are some misconceptions people have about Islam?
“People think that Islam is a very demanding religion, and I don’t think they understand how much of a lifesaver it can genuinely be,” Maricar said. “When there are things in your life that are out of your control, it’s helpful [to know], ‘Hey, I’m not in control of certain things,’ and it really is focusing on you becoming the best version of yourself.”
What has turned you into the Muslim you are today?
“Accepting myself and like realizing the beauty within, just realizing [that] hey, if somebody doesn’t like you screw them,” Maricar said. “Their opinion does not matter,… they don’t know what’s going on,” Maricar said.
What are your beliefs as a Christian?
“I think the core of Christianity is a foundation of love of God, the concept of God unconditionally loving you,” SENIOR Theo Underhill said. “And then trying to be more Christlike and love others despite what they do.”
What are your daily religious practices?
“I try [to] wake up a little bit earlier, so I can read the psalms every morning,” Underhill said. “Throughout the day I’m trying to love others, whether that’s just talking to someone or trying to make it a point to remember someone’s name. It’s like small things that sometimes carry a lot of meaning.”
Is there a certain time when you felt closest to your religion?
“My first instance in which I really dove a lot deeper into [Christianity] was actually during quarantine,” Sarah Gebremeskel, ’25, said. “I had the time, the emotions, [and the] circumstances to be able to dive deeper into my faith… and actually, I still think about the encounters and the experiences that I had at that time and they’re really foundational for me.”
Have there been any hardships for you when practicing your religion during the school year?
“Yeah, definitely, so the school day is not necessarily over for me when I leave the building. [There are] a lot of extracurriculars that I do, [and] homework takes up a ton of my time,” Gebremeskel said. “The more and more I care about my grades, assessments, and things that I have to do, the more they consume my mind and that means there’s less space for me to think about my faith.
How do you practice Judaism?
“Most of my life, I live like anyone does, but on Fridays, we have a holiday called Shabbat,” Noa Jaffee, ’27, said. “It’s celebrating the end of the week, and we have a nice dinner, candles, [and we] drink grape juice. There’s a blessing for everything.”
What keeps you close to your religion?
“My friends,” Jaffee said. “I went to a Jewish school from preschool to sixth grade until I got to Walnut, so I’ve made a lot of friends through it.”
How was the change from a private Jewish school to WHHS?
“It was really my first time being in a place where Judaism wasn’t the norm and it was the first time I really realized, ‘Oh right, we’re a minority, forgot about that,'” Jaffee said.
Do you think Judaism is a culture or a religion?
“[Judaism] is a religion in the way that I go to synagogue, I do Jewish rituals and stuff, but my grandpa took a DNA test and told him he was 98% Jewish,” Jaffee said. “So, it’s really both a religion and a culture. Honestly, they’re kind of equal in my mind.”