Whether for good or for bad, religion often becomes the focal point of how we choose to live our lives at one point or another. In minority cultures, however, religion tends to play a much bigger role than simply “doing right by God.”
I was baptized Catholic and was raised in an Anglican household, but for the past three and a half years, I’ve adopted Islam as my religion. To be honest, I’ve never been the religious type (although I did want to become a nun when I was 13). Instead, I’ve often considered myself more spiritual than anything else. To me, God is in everything and in everyone, and wherever I am is where he’ll also be, so I didn’t care much for attending Sunday mass. As I became older and more concerned about life and God’s teachings, I felt a need for belonging, and it hit me that people didn’t go to church or to the mosque just for prayer. They go for many reasons, especially for the social aspect. I remember going to Sunday mass with my grandmother, who was very popular at the time. The fact that she’d remain in church just to gossip with her friends for hours, made me really upset. It annoyed me that she’d stay for so long after service to converse with people she didn’t like or even care about. I think part of my frustration stemmed from hunger because church started at 8 AM and ended almost four hours later! Anyway, that was then, but this is now, and I completely understand why religion means so much to minority groups.
Let’s take a look at the word, “minority.” It can be defined as less than half of a whole or group; a small number of people representing a certain race, religion, region, community and so on. Here in North America, we characterize minority groups based on race, language, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. In other words, anyone who isn’t Caucasian, English speaking, Christian and heterosexual, is in the minority. The same thing can be said for different parts of the world. Take, for instance, Christians being a minority in Middle Eastern countries and Muslims being a minority in European countries. There is roughly 6% of Muslims living in Europe and 5% of Christians living in the Middle East. Culturally, Jews are a minority, as well as Catholics, and across the board; homosexuals are and will be the minority. Now that we’re in agreement, you’re probably wondering where religion fits into the lives of these minority groups, right? Well, when you take away the fact that some religions were introduced and adopted around the world due to certain promises, it is the doctrine for a healthy and happy God-fearing life. In the Qur’an, Allah arms you with all of the knowledge you need in order to get to Jannah, just like the bible teaches you about the 10 commandments for living a life close to God.
Here are some reasons why minority cultures might value religion a little more than others:
Religion serves as a roadmap to live a faithful and morally sound life, but also gives the underprivileged hope and something to believe in. Growing up humbly on a small island, only makes you dream bigger, and for the ones who couldn’t afford to, prayer made all the difference. Many churchgoers are, for the most part, people seeking refuge and planting seeds that one day something good will happen in his or her life. “Religion is the foundation of what keeps me going. My source of strength” said Roxanne Russell, an Ordained Minister of African descent. She went on to say, “when I was young, my grandmother would sit and hum and when I asked what it meant she’d say, ‘god will bring me through.’ So we were taught to stay focused on our faith.” And this is reminiscent of most struggling minorities holding on to faith for something good.
Churches, Synagogues and Mosques offer a safe place to those in trials and tribulations; it’s a place to feel comforted and accepted. God doesn’t turn his back on his children and no man of God would ever do that to his congregation. Mrs. Russell also commented on how she has “learned to trust in [her] religion and church in order to get through hardships, and [she has] learned that from [her] grandmother.” Some churches also offer prayer meetings to those looking to study the religion further or even those seeking advice on a particular issue.
It lifts your heart and spirit to be in a place of worship with others who might be feeling similarly to you, and that alone is enough to brighten someone’s day. Some people go to prayers to give praise for the wonderful things they’ve been blessed with because they believe it will continue to open doors for even more blessings. I remember hearing people at church giving thanks because their son or daughter received a new opportunity or because someone won a court case, or even someone meeting a new prospective spouse. Overall, people don’t just choose to go to prayers or mass because they’re down on their luck, they go to give thanks throughout the year instead of waiting until Thanksgiving.
Mosques, Synagogues and Churches help communities with information and special programs like food pantries, housing, job opportunities, rehabilitation, etc. It’s a civic duty for most places of worship to provide its congregation with free services, including counseling and help with paying certain bills. Some churches have pantries where community members can go to get food, Mosques take clothing donations to distribute to the poor and homeless, and Synagogues provide free counseling, as do many other religious organizations. In case you’re struggling and don’t know where to turn to, look into religious organizations for help.
Places of worship also provide social fulfillment and satisfaction for those struggling to find their way through counseling and enrichment classes. If you lack accountability, then your place of worship will surely whip you into shape. Being absent from service one too many times lead to two things: being called several times throughout the week and by different people and/or being dropped from their circle altogether. I’ve experienced both. Ultimately, religion is sacred and it’s very personal, and it should be something you choose based on your morals and need for spiritual guidance. For many years, I lived a spiritual life, but still included some elements of religion into my daily living. According to Dzevat Selmanovic, an Albanian Muslim, “religion means everything to me. It’s a way of life, a way of thinking and a way in which I relate to my brothers and sisters.” In my experience, I think this resonates with minorities everywhere because when the odds are against you, who can you trust if not your faith in God?