Being Muslim in a Catholic school | Inquirer Opinion
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Being Muslim in a Catholic school

/ 05:05 AM February 23, 2024

My parents had a vision: they wanted to raise global citizens, hoping their children would grow into open-minded individuals committed to serving their community and contributing to a positive change. Consequently, they made a bold decision to send a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Cotabato City to an eight-hour drive Catholic school in Davao City.

Speaking on behalf of minorities in a Catholic school, I had the responsibility of representing Islam. Unlike families prioritizing academics above all else, my parents were drawn to a school that emphasized values, virtues, and character development. After visiting multiple schools and attending many open days across Davao, they chose San Pedro College (SPC).

My educational journey is encapsulated in the following experience. Every 3 p.m., I would excuse myself not to study or stroll around the school and sneak into the canteen but to partake in the Asr prayer. This practice presented a constant challenge, especially as I balanced involvement in nine different organizations, a part-time job, and as a class president for two years. People often expressed curiosity about the five daily prayers, questioning whether I ever took a rest, to which I would reply, “My prayers are my rest.”

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For the most part, we were ordinary students who carried on with our day and worried more about how to pass our histology subject than to delve into the details of religious differences.

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However, in saying this, conversations sparked naturally, and this is where the journey toward self-discovery began. Whether it was during religious class or out of the four corners of the room, I fielded numerous questions over the years: Do you believe in Jesus? Why do you fast? Why do you wear the hijab? Why can’t you eat pork?

Rather than growing frustrated with these inquiries, I realized that each question served as a bridge to acceptance. Some discussions evolved into deeper conversations about the similarities between Islam and Catholicism, benefiting my understanding of both faiths. Taking theology courses also deepened my grasp of Catholicism and Christianity, ultimately strengthening my faith.

And, of course, in my later years at the school, these questions became more challenging. At times, I was uncertain how to respond, prompting me to seek answers from my parents, grandparents, and religious authorities. This cycle of continual discovery shaped not only my identity but also the identities of my peers, fostering a parallel journey between self and mutual discovery.

I was in a school environment that was so different, yet so similar to my own beliefs and customs. What struck me most about my experience of attending Catholic school was the sense of what we shared in common. While learning more about one another and ourselves, commonalities surfaced and remained. We came to recognize that, at our core, we shared more similarities than we had differences. However, this could only have taken place if respect was foremost. At a school that proclaimed the importance of virtues, respect was fundamental and was exemplified by the president, teachers, and staff, and could not help but be imbibed by the students.

It was in this way that the school’s motto, “Love Serves,” resonated not only with the values of my family but also with my faith. The emphasis on righteousness and good character aligned with the essence and spirit of Islam, as exemplified by Prophet Muhammad. Despite the apparent differences, my Catholic school experience highlighted the common ground we shared.

Upon reflection, my experience sheds light on the importance of venturing outside one’s comfort zone, and, yes, even in the context of choosing a faith-based school that differs from one’s own. While challenging, this experience can be immensely rewarding and life-changing, strengthening one’s identity when guided by supportive parents and a healthy school community such as SPC.

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By attending a Catholic school, I not only learned more about Islam but also became a better Muslim. This prompts the broader question: Are we ready to immerse ourselves in the richness of multicultural experiences? To explore different neighborhoods, and participate in religious or cultural celebrations from diverse communities by attending, say, a mosque open day, synagogue, or Buddhist temple?

Would you consider sending your children to a faith-based school that is different from your own? I am glad my parents did.

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Meizan Badrudin, 20, is a second-year student studying medical laboratory science at San Pedro College, Davao.

TAGS: Muslim, opinion, private schools

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