Religions of West Side

Our school is filled with many different students with a variety of different beliefs. In this section we asked students of all different faiths to share a bit about what they believe and why it is important to them. We were able to speak to only a few students but are hoping to represent more of the beliefs of our school community in the future. By sharing our stories, we can educate each other and celebrate the differences that bring us together.

Religions of West Side

Dev and Darsh Patel
 We are Hindus. In India we took part in many traditional ceremonies and daily practices that we still practice here in America. All boys get their first haircut when they turn one which is a big deal. Along with going to temple each week, we have daily prayers at night before going to sleep. In India, we participated in festivals like Uttaryan, a kite flying ceremony on the 14th and 15th day of the new year. On that day in India, our family would gather and makes sweets and delicious food for everyone then millions of colorful kites fill the sky and everyone takes part in the kite flying. Some compete and take as many kites as they can from the sky. Another tradition is Holi in March in honor of the God Holika Dahan. This is symbolic ceremony celebrated by burning Holika, the devil, in order to save his son. At night we would go to a celebration of fire in an open field.The next day of Holi is called Dhuleti and we play with our neighbors and friends and paint our faces and body in different colors of paint. Our holy book is called the Bhagavad Gita. Some of the beliefs include the belief in many gods and in reincarnation. Some of the oldest and most religious Hindus go to the mountains and meditate until they pass on to a new life. The symbol above represents the unity of all things and a state of inner peace. Another symbol, the Sanskrit, represents good fortune. When we get a new home, car, etc. we pray and paint the Sanskrit to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune. We all eat together and spend time with our friends and family. Our beliefs and traditions were passed down by our family. Our grandmother still prays every morning and she passed down these traditions to my mom who taught us. Practicing our faith keeps us together as a family and culture. It helps us understand one another. 

Diana Tarnovskaya

     Our church had decided to go on a missionary trip and I was so blessed that I had the opportunity to join. Going past immigration was a little scary. I remember being super nervous and excited to go to Mexico for a whole 10 days.Our trip was focused on reaching out to the community and the children of Zacatecas. A particular day that stood out to me was the third day. We had decided to visit people with a nerve diseases called Multiple Sclerosis. People with this condition lose ability to do certain things such as walk or even talk. I was delighted to meet beautiful people who were strong through their battles with MS. A group of people from my church and I had the time to meet one particular person. Her name was Ofelia. She was diagnosed with MS when she was 50 years old. When she was diagnosed her husband began to beat her because she was no longer able to “serve” him. When hearing this my heart broke into many pieces. I had a strong desire to speak with her. She continued her story and I found out that she decided to leave her husband. When she left her husband, her kids didn’t understand what for and they abandon her. She was left behind with a condition she had to fight by herself. She was in the wheelchair for twenty years. In those twenty years everyone including her friends and family left her. One thing that never left her was her depression, she told us. After hearing her story I had a tug in my heart to speak to her. I began to have thoughts of negativity. I heard myself saying don’t speak, your words will not help her. I heard myself say no you are too shy to speak. Negative thoughts didn’t hold me down for too long. I decided to speak up and tell her what God put on my heart. To this day I am so thankful I spoke my mind. When I spoke to her I began to cry heavily. I told her that God was not done with her yet. I told her that she would become a walking miracle. I told her my story. When I finished I came up to her and she gave me the warmest embrace. We prayed for her and for the first time she had a smile on her face. Her smile was beautiful. It amazes me how God works. God shows us beauty in simple things as a smile. He turns our life completely around within a day. No matter how much we mess up He loves us. No matter the situation, he never leaves us. I discover his beauty everyday and I discovered it more when I met Ofelia.

Jumana Asultani


     For me religion is all about who you are. Being a Muslim means being who you are. We strive to live a happy life in the right way. This means doing things the way they are meant to be. People may think of Muslim girls as restricted in what they are able to do or say. We wear what we wear to show respect for ourselves, our families and our environment. Praying five times a day helps us get closer to God and who we are. Being close to God is central to our religion. Sharing a name or a place of birth that may be associated with terrorism DOES NOT mean that Muslims are terrorists. I just became a citizen four months ago. Like many others, my family came to this country to live a better life. Terrorist are flipping the religion and the world’s perception of it around and committing unthinkable acts of hate that have no connection to our religion.It is so frustrating and devastating that so many people think that Muslims are terrorists. My religion is my life.

Katerina Yuzefovich

  Katherine   The religion I practice is Christianity. You may wonder, what does my religion mean to me? Well it means having a close relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It also involves trying to follow His word in my life. One important section from the Bible is “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39. The center of my religion is God, and God is love. He loves each and every person, after all, we are the reason why he had to struggle and die a painful death. There are a variety of important traditions we have in our religion. Our traditions include helping those who are in need, visiting the sick, going to church, and doing good deeds. The members of the church participate in communion once a month as well. Every year we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. We also celebrate Good Friday, which is when Jesus was crucified and died for our sin, in order for us to receive salvation. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Christianity is very important to me personally because of the impact Jesus had on my life. I see His work everyday and I often recall times when God, made the impact in my life. When times get tough and I face difficulties in my life, God answers my prayers and I know that it could’ve only been God who did that for me. It’s not all about the religion or the title but your relationship with God that matters.

Joe Callahan

     My name is Joseph Callahan, and I am an atheist. I don’t follow a religion, I don’t believe in a deity, and I don’t believe that there such a thing as the afterlife. When I was younger, I was in fact a Christian. My mother made me go to Sunday school for years, and we went to church as often as we could. But over the years when I learned more about, and became more exposed to what it means to be an atheist, It simply just made more sense to me than what I was taught in church. The fact that science has been able to come up with more evidence and answers for pretty much everything we as humans has ever thought of, just makes more sense than just coming up with the unintellectual answer of just saying, oh God did this. I’m not saying that those who follow a religion are unintellectual, I actually happen to respect those who are devoted to something that they believe in, but I just find it to be an unintellectual choice for someone to think that one being is responsible for everything. The way that I look at it is, is that you can believe in whatever you want to believe in. That’s okay with me. But when someone challenges my beliefs, or tries to convert me, or tell me that it’s a sin to believe in evolution, than that’s where I have a problem. Basically, my viewpoint is, that religion is the main cause for most of the problems in our world today, whether it be war or just poor decision making; and that when you are given empirical evidence for life’s biggest questions, it then becomes a somewhat odd choice to believe in something that you can’t even prove. I was never taught this as a child, but children should be taught to question everything, and make up their own decisions on what to, and what not to believe. We should not be spoon fed information at a young age on what is true and what isn’t true; we need to question everything as children. And that is why I am an atheist.

Mr. Tharaldson

    I am what’s called a Nichiren Buddhist. In Nichiren Buddhism, the main practice is chanting. So I chant for an hour in the morning and about an hour and a half every night. I’ve done this(chanting) twice a day for the past twelve years. I chant in a mixture of very ancient Japanese and Sanskrit. I do Mantra chanting, which is chanting a phrase over and over again to clear out your mind. Then I chant the Sutras which are the words and the messages of the Buddha.                                                                                                                                                                                                            I first got involved in Buddhism because I was a history major. What happened to me was I started studying different forms of religion in the ancient world because my concentration in history was ancient history. It’s kind of funny. I was having my hair cut one day and there was this picture and it had all these different emotions and they all had symbols was this character who was drawn in dashed lines, what we call stereo-metric lines. It was a human being that had no substance. They asked me, ‘Shaun, which picture illustrates you?’ So I pointed at that picture and said, ‘I don’t think I exist.’ When I talked to one of my teachers about it they said to me that it sounds like I intuitively have arrived at some of the conclusions that are found in Buddhism. So why don’t you start to study Buddhism. That was about fifteen years ago. When I started studying Buddhism, it struck me like a chord, as if I was reading something that was already implanted in my mind. It was very weird to find a philosophy of life that was an echo of what I had existentially put together through the various ways I was living my life.                                                                     What I had to do was I had to contact a group to take vows of Buddhism. Then the very first thing I had to do was to learn the chanting because you have to practice, devotion, and study have to be done simultaneously. Before I knew it I was working with a teacher. I was taught how to chant in Japanese. Then I had to learn how to do the bowing, and how to set up a meditation center in my house.                                                                                                               Talking about the Mantra: “It calms down your mind and makes you very placid. It opens up your mind if you do it long enough. It actually forms a catalyst within your mind for you to actually reinvent your life and change your life.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sutras are recorded passages from the Buddha and I chant those in Japanese. Once I finish the Mantras then I switch over and start all of the chanting from the Sutras. There are five prayers that you do and I had to memorize all of them. It took me about two and a half years to learn the syllable structure and the rhythm to understand what I was saying.                                                                                                                                                                                                      Buddhists don’t believe in a deity. (The chants) are sounds that make a connection to this “Buddha Nature,” the nature of awakening that we believe exists in every single human being. But you have to find a way to tap into it. Buddhism says that the mind is very much like the sky, it’s crystal clear and deep like the ocean, but it is also clouded by what is called a klesha. A klesha is a defilement, like anger, greed, hostility, prejudice. The goal of Buddhism is to remove those from your mind so that you become compassionate, like the Buddha, you become forthright, like the Buddha. You not only practice to improve your own life, you practice to improve the lives of others. I don’t think that I would be as successful as a teacher if I wasn’t a Buddhist. Buddhism makes me, what I think to be, a fantastic teacher. I’m really here to help them(the students) out. A lot of Buddhists are teachers because if you’re not going to be a Buddhist in a monastery as a monk there’s certain forms of life that Buddhism fits into and the primary one is teaching. When I became a Buddhist I became a teacher. It’s part of something called the Eightfold Path in Buddhism. One of the parts of the path is to find right livelyhood, to find the life that suits you so that you can develop your mind and develop your sense of ethics and morality so that you can be of service to other people.                  I was born a Roman Catholic. I rejected that at a very early age. I went through a phase where I did not have any religion at all. It was like a gray area. I was filling it in with historical studies, linguistic studies. I learned Hebrew. I left the organized religion not because I was so much angry at it. I left it because I had really studied it. In my interior nature, (Buddhism) struck a chord with my system of thought and I went with that because that is the path that I take to do what I need to in life and to develop myself as I need to be developed. To be a more compassionate person.