Holiday season calls for religious awareness

Illustration by Ella Prillaman

Illustration by Ella Prillaman

Editorial Board

Every year during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, junior Yasmeen Mohammed Rafee has playful fasting competitions with her sisters. On Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan, millions of Muslims around the world gather for prayers, festivities, and gifts to celebrate the fast. This school year, Eid al-Fitr is on June 4, during finals, amoung other religious celebrations that fall on school days.

Since not everyone is aware of these less mainstream celebrations, The Oracle Editorial Board urges GBS students and staff to work to gain a better understanding of these celebrations.

The Editorial Board understands that changing the District 225 calendar to accommodate all religions holidays is unrealistic, but we encourage students and staff to recognize the existence of holidays as well as the practices and beliefs that come with them. Though GBS students have many Christian and Jewish celebrations off, such as Christmas and Rosh Hashana, the GBS community should be just as aware of other holidays and practices. According to a non-scientific survey conducted by The Oracle, 66.1 percent of the GBS student population is Christian and 10.5 percent is Jewish, but 23.2 percent of students are still part of religions that may celebrate holidays on school days.

Stacy Flannery, social studies teacher, believes GBS should be more aware of fellow students’ celebrations and traditions.

“One thing I’ve always said to my students is that [GBS is] predominantly Christian,” Flannery said. “Can you imagine waking up on Christmas morning, opening your presents, and your mom saying, ‘Alright-hurry up-we got to get you to the bus. For Muslims, that’s what Eid is [like].”

Furthermore, Mohammed Rafee believes that we cannot define ourselves as a diverse community until everyone has a sufficient understanding of other people’s cultures and customs.

“Everybody has a different culture pertaining to their own family, their own friends,” Mohammed Rafee said. “And if we don’t make greater strides to understand these individual cultures, there’s no possible way we can even call ourselves a unified Glenbrook community.”

The Oracle Editorial Board applauds the administration’s current efforts to encourage religious understanding, but we believe that more can be done to further promote inclusion.

“From the moment I started working here, 24 years ago, we would get regular emails about religious holidays,” Flannery said. “What I have seen over the years is that list growing in terms of which religions are being brought to the forefront of awareness as having an important religious holiday. So maybe it was a breakthrough when the Muslim holidays were in the emails, and now I’m seeing Hindu, and I’m seeing the list get a little bit bigger. But, the truth of the matter is that our calendar [still] has a Christian bias.”

One example of this understanding occurred when Daniel Hicks, social studies teacher, allowed a student to take their second-semester final early last year, as they were traveling out of the country for a religious celebration. Hicks says that teachers should be willing to make accommodations for students due to religious reasons to ensure that everyone feels respected and accepted.

“Anytime a reasonable accommodation can be made, I feel like as educators we have an obligation to make those reasonable accommodations,” Hicks said. “When the students say to me ‘I’m not going to have time to do this because of my religious obligations’, I’m always aware that my religion gets [days] off, Christianity gets [days] off…And I think that it also sends a message to those students that ‘You are valued, and you’re religion is valued’. And just because you might be a minority religion or a minority in general, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t reap the benefits of a larger society.”

To encourage religious understanding, one suggestion would be announcing a variety of cultural and religious celebrations from across the world over the PA on the morning announcements. We believe that this can foster acceptance and awareness of the diversity of the student body and shed light on the different lifestyles Titans lead.

The Oracle Editorial Board encourages all students and staff alike to take the extra step to make people feel comfortable and accepted in our school environment. The GBS student body and community is diverse, an aspect of our school that we should take pride in rather than disregard.