• Four young Australians talk to SBS about what their religion means to them. (Supplied)
SBS asked young people of different religions what their faith means to them – and the answers were fascinating.
By
Kimberly Gillan

7 Feb 2018 - 10:14 AM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2018 - 2:52 PM

Four young Australians share how their faith shapes their lives in modern Australia.

Meet Benjamin Kluwgant, 24. He's Jewish.

What benefits does faith bring to your life?

BK: It brings a sense of community, social security, belonging, purpose and meaning. I look at religion as something that enhances the quality of my life, particularly given it gives you a network from the word go.

How often do you pray or go to the synagogue?

BK: The Jewish religion requires people pray three times a day, ideally at the same time each day. On the Shabbat – Friday night and Saturday – I go to the synagogue. It's a shorter session of around an hour on Friday night and about three hours on Saturday.

What is it like maintaining a faith in modern society, especially when many young Australians report having no religion?

BK: My family has a background of strong Hasidic [Orthodox] practices, which I practice, respect and acknowledge to be important, however I have adapted a lot of those practices into my modern lifestyle. [I've tried to find a way to stay regular in this world and not stand out so much, but at the same time, still keep my religion and faith.] It can be difficult being different.

I keep kosher, which is the Jewish diet and the Jewish rituals of what you're supposed to eat, which automatically cuts off proper involvement in many social or professional scenes. I can't go to the footy on Saturday or go to a restaurant my more secular/non-Jewish friends are meeting at for dinner.

Are there common misconceptions about your faith that you wish other Australians understood?

BK: Australians are very generally very understanding but yes - for sure. Last time I went to the football I was wearing a kippah [skullcap] on my head and someone said 'Is going to the football a sin? Is drinking beer a sin?' – it becomes very clear that you are being stereotyped and categorised as something out of the ordinary.

I'm always happy to answer questions and look at it as an opportunity to spread knowledge and give an understanding of the kind of people we are.

I can't go to the footy on Saturday or go to a restaurant my more secular/non-Jewish friends are meeting at for dinner.

What attracts you to your particular faith?

BK: Our religion is so rich with culture and detail. Being part of a nation and a religion that has been around so many years and gone through so much oppression and hardship [and still thrives today] inspires me greatly and makes me feel proud. In particular, being part of the "Chabad" movement which focuses primarily on outreach and spreading the wellsprings of Judaism to the most far flung places, brings an even more special feeling into my life.

Meet Minh Ai Nguyen, 24. She's a Buddhist.

What benefits does your faith bring to your life?

MN: Buddhism has a lot of principles that you can apply to your practical life – one of the main ones is the idea of impermanence. If I'm going through a rough patch, I take a step back and realise that the suffering or the unpleasant situation that I am in is impermanent and it stops me wallowing. It's good to know that things in life are always moving and changing.

How often do you meditate or go to your temple?

MN: I don't prostrate in front of the alter regularly like my mum does, but if I am in a sticky situation or am feeling anxious, I might recite some mantras in my head as a way of calming myself down. When there is a festival or main event I go to the temple in Bonnyrigg, NSW.

But Buddhists are just human beings who have chosen to follow the Buddhist principles and not every Buddhist is going to be the perfect, calm Buddha who meditates and prays all the time.

What is it like maintaining a faith in modern society?

MN: I sometimes wonder how to reconcile the need to have a job and a career with what Buddhism promotes about not being attached to material things. I still get caught up with possessions and clothes and things like that – I often have regret after buying something and realise I became too attached to wordly things.

Are there common misconceptions about your faith that you wish other Australians understood?

MN: People are quick to think that because you are Buddhist that you're really calm. But Buddhists are just human beings who have chosen to follow the Buddhist principles and not every Buddhist is going to be the perfect, calm Buddha who meditates and prays all the time.

What attracts you to your particular faith?

MN: I like that it's not restrictive or shoved down your throat – it's more about 'Try out these principles and see if it works for you'. It's about looking within and analysing and interrogating yourself and your actions to improve yourself and help others, rather than praying to different deities.

Meet Isaam Almaribe, 26. He's Muslim.

What benefits does your faith bring to your life?

IA: Peace of mind and peace of heart – it helps me think positively, which brings me joy and happiness. When my dad had a heart attack in 2015 and the doctors said that he wouldn't survive, I prayed to God and asked him to save my dad – praying helped keep me relaxed. When my dad made an outstanding recovery and survived, I felt that God had responded to me and helped my dad.

How often do you pray or go to the mosque?

IA: I used to go to the mosque every week, but due to work and life commitments I now go once or twice a month, but I always pray three to five times a day.

What is it like maintaining a faith in modern society?

IA: I sometimes have to filter my religion to suit my modern life. For example, according to the Quran, I should not shake women's hands but in my job as a sales consultant, it's important to maintain a relationship. Ultimately though, it says in the Quran "Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship". I believe faith should make our life easier not make our life harder so sometimes I have to adjust what I'm doing in a particular situation.

When my dad had a heart attack in 2015 and the doctors said that he wouldn't survive, I prayed to God and asked him to save my dad – praying helped keep me relaxed.

Are there common misconceptions about your faith that you wish other Australians understood?

IA: Muslims do suffer stereotyping, mainly due to what people see on TV in relation to terrorism in the Middle East. But terrorist groups such as ISIS or Al Qaeda have no relation to the real Islamic values and practices, which promotes harmony in the community. We should respect each other's religions and support each other to fight terrorism so we can live in peace.

What attracts you to your particular faith?

IA: All religions are good and kind – it's just a matter of how you apply these rules and how well you can follow them. I'm proud to live in a diverse country like Australia where we can all practice our religions and beliefs in peace.  

Meet Sayher Heffernan, 30. He's Christian.

What benefits does your faith bring to your life?

SH: It gives me a sense of purpose and hope, plus support and guidance on how to live my life in a moral way. It also brings with it a community to share the highs and lows of life with. I met my best mates at church 10 years ago – we're all on the same wavelength and can help process life through the filter of faith.

How often do you pray or go to church?

SH: I try and go to church once a week – on Saturday night or Sunday – and I go to bible studies every week or fortnight. I endeavour to start the day reading the Bible and doing five to 10 minutes of prayer and I try to pray throughout the day as well.  

You have to be diligent with maintaining your faith – you have to create space to read the Bible or pray and ask God for direction.

What is it like maintaining a faith in modern society?

SH: We live in such a fast-paced world with online distractions competing for your attention, so it can be a struggle to work out how to balance faith and everything else. You have to be diligent with maintaining your faith – you have to create space to read the Bible or pray and ask God for direction.

Are there common misconceptions about your faith that you wish other Australians understood?

SH: It's quite common in Australia for people to have no faith and people can be like 'That's a bit weird', but I find most people are respectful.  I found it harder when I was younger because kids were less understanding and not as nice.

What attracts you to your particular faith?

SH: I like the story that Jesus came down to us and made himself like us so he could identify with us. He didn't come as a king or a mighty strong ruler – the fact he was born in a manger and was a humble servant meant he had an eye and a heart for the struggles of the world. I think that's something we can all learn from and try to emulate.

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