As a young child I acknowledged God’s existence, but I didn’t understand who or what God is: someone that watched over me, a being that was everywhere I went, or a force very far away. Needless to say, the farthest my faith education went was the show “Veggie Tales.” My family did celebrate Christmas however it was more out of custom than the celebration of Christ’s birth. My parents’ focus was raising me to be a kind, intelligent, and thoughtful person, which can be achieved without a faith upbringing. Ironically, they were not raised that way: both of their upbringings were centered around God.
My mom was born and raised in Shorewood near where I currently live. She and her two older brothers were taught the Catholic faith. My dad, on the other hand, was raised Muslim. Born in Cairo, Egypt, my dad immigrated to the United States at the age of four. For both of my parents, faith was a very large aspect of their lives, and just the thought of marrying one another seemed so abstract. Although they idolized the same God, the idea of a Catholic and a Muslim dating—and later marrying—seemed strange on both sides. Over time both families opened their hearts to one another and quickly learned how incredible not only the individual was, but their family was as well.
When it came time for mine and my siblings’ upbringing, faith was not the foreground. And it did not concern me until I reached middle school. Throughout the years I have juggled ideas of atheism, undeveloped versions of Christianity, Agnosticism, Deism, and more. When I came to Dominican High School, nothing scared me more than faith. I could make friends and get good grades, but I cared so much about not revealing to people I wasn’t Catholic. My dad’s biggest concern was that my beliefs shaped simply because of those around me, and I am sad to admit that they did. Although I may have developed understanding of some aspects of the Christian faith, I really didn’t believe any of it to be true. The issue was that while I was trying to open my mind to God, I was also trying to prove myself to my school and friends. I demonstrated some internal conflict I had to them, but many did not understand. They didn’t get that my faith was not integrated into every single aspect of my life growing up. Once when I was trying to explain this to my friend, she responded by saying “Amira, God is real. He just is.” But she didn’t understand that that was not enough for me. And if I did decide to develop a faith, why is it automatic that I turn to Christianity; I should get the chance to explore other denominations as well. All of it was easier said than done.
In time my faith grew, and I could discuss and debate it with my friends; we all broadened each other’s perspectives. What really established my faith was my Junior Kairos retreat this past fall. The retreat opened my eyes to the incredible talents of myself and my peers. Additionally, I learned that God places obstacles in front of you that he knows you can conquer; this idea was put to the test the day I returned from the retreat and had to learn a new role for Dominican’s fall show in ONLY 6 days. This challenge tested my strength and capabilities, yet I rose above it. Without my renewed faith I do not know if I could I overcome that obstacle.
Faith is a very personal thing. Although I accept many Catholic beliefs, I would not call myself a Catholic. Throughout the rest of my life I know that my faith will alter, evolve, and may change entirely. Over the next few months I will share with you a monthly blog about how my faith is evolving especially during my senior year in high school. Who knows how my faith will be impacted by school work, retreats, school activities and the planning of my post high school life? No matter what happens; what will never change, no matter the faith, is that I know humans must treat each other with compassion, equality, and tolerance.
Questions for Reflection
What has influenced your journey of faith?
What makes you proud of your faith tradition? What questions or uncertainties do you have about your faith tradition?
Amira Elsafy, a rising senior at Dominican High School, lives in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. She attended the local public schools until high school where she has become active at Dominican. She has been the class Student Council President, a member of the honor roll for the past four years and loves to volunteer. Outside of the academic world, you will find Amira on the stage, recently winning an award for playing the Witch in “Big Fish”. In the next year, she will share her experiences of failure and success, friendships, family her senior journey through the college process and ultimately how all of this impacts her faith.