One person kneels in the direction of Mecca to pray, the other meditates every day, while a third sings psalms in church on Sunday morning. In Rotterdam, you can find faith in all shapes and sizes. EUR students show their place of worship.

‘For me it’s all about Jesus’

Kristen Doloksaribu (25, Arbitration and Business Law master programme)

“I felt rather lost when I moved from Jakarta to the Netherlands two months ago. A big city like this; a new degree programme; I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak the language. My faith was the only thing I could rely on. The Scots International Church in the city centre has given me tremendous support. It’s an international church based on Christian tenets. Everyone’s welcome. They have English services, which I found very comforting. And the way in which they talk about the Bible suits me very well. It’s a bit conventional and relaxed at the same time. For me, going to church is all about Jesus. He gives me strength and hope. I believe I’m on this Earth for a reason. I was awarded a scholarship to study here. I know I’m not smarter than the rest, so there must be some other reason. To find out, the only thing I can do is work even harder, pray and do my very best.”

‘All the pieces of the puzzle fell in place’

Eric Sramo.

Erik Sramo (26, HRM master programme)

“I had already been introduced to Buddhism as a secondary school student in Slovakia. And now, it’s three years since I first went to the Diamond Way Buddhism centre in Kralingen-Crooswijk. Their way of thinking, this world view – it all aligned very closely with how I look at things. All the pieces of the puzzle fell in place. I have always been interested in psychology as a science. And Buddhism connects seamlessly with this interest. Most people call it a religion, but actually it isn’t. It’s more akin to science. Buddha once said: ‘Don’t take my word for it – simply because a Buddha tells you so – examine it yourself.’ I try to meditate every day and after that, I apply the lessons in my daily life. By increasing the distance between myself and my disruptive emotions and thoughts, for example. And this is going better and better. My ultimate objective is enlightenment, an absolute liberation from distracting impressions – so that you are completely in the here and now, fearless and full of bliss.”

‘I can’t imagine a life without religion’

Sara Brouwer.

Sara Brouwer-Woudenberg (33, Health Care Management pre-master programme)

”At the fundamental level, I see Christianity as love. Love for myself, for others, for my profession. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lead a life without love – and thus without God. I’m a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, and I attend the Ontmoetingskerk in Rotterdam-Zevenkamp. Here, I can ‘recharge’ and reflect. I was baptised in this church, I attended services for children and teenagers, did my confession of faith and got married. And now I’m holding children’s services here myself. In short, I was raised in the faith from an early age. Which makes it difficult to determine whether it’s nurture or nature. Would I follow a different religion if I was born in some other part of the world? This occasionally gives rise to some interesting internal debates. I’m sure in my faith, however. In addition to studying, I also work in care. You see the most amazing things there. When I see how some people deal with a serious disease, and win or lose the fight, this actually strengthens me in my belief.”

‘Everything in life has a reason’

Oznur Senyurt 3
Öznur Senyurt.

Öznur Senyurt (20, Law and Psychology bachelor programmes)

“My faith makes me stronger, emotionally speaking. When something bad happens, I know it has a reason. Like everything in life. This makes me surer of my ground. Everything that happens to me has formed me into the person I am today. The same way my faith has helped shape my identity. You can’t see me separate from it. In secondary school, when I didn’t wear a headscarf yet, and looked very Dutch, I found it difficult to share my true thoughts. I’m a lot more confident when I wear a headscarf – making it easier for me to say that I won’t be going to a party where they serve alcohol, for example. In the past, I wanted to become a public prosecutor, but you’re not allowed to if you wear a headscarf. Still, this wasn’t a difficult choice to make: my faith is a lot more important than a dream. Some people think a headscarf is a form of oppression. To me, that’s a very bizarre thought, since I chose to wear it myself. My headscarf is a symbol of my freedom.”

‘Saturday evening, we drink a few beers; Sunday morning, we’re in church’

Gerrit Jan Hagens 3
Gerrit Jan Hagens.

Gerrit Jan Hagens (23, Public Administration bachelor programme)

“Faith keeps me on my toes and focussed. Am I sure I’m not being a hypocrite about something, is my faith sincere, can I justify what I’m up to? I’m a member of a Liberated Reformed Church, a Christian denomination. While the name sounds strict, we’re actually relatively lenient. I watch TV like everyone else and go to a bar when I feel like it. But I do go to the church in Delfshaven every Sunday. And a lot of other students go too, although occasionally with a hangover from the night before. I’m a member of a Christian student association. We have just as much fun as any other association. It’s a good way for me to combine my time as a student with my faith. People‘s faith often gets watered down when they move into their own room in the big city. All these new things coming at you from every direction, and you’re less focussed. That’s what happened to me too. Until I started missing something, and went in search of a place that I could return to.”

‘My family are still Hindu, which remains difficult’

Tania Bhulai 1
Tania Bhulai.

Tania Bhulai (27, bachelor Bedrijfskunde)

“My case is rather special. I’m from Suriname and was raised a Hindu, but I converted to Christianity. I was baptised and I’ve joined the Pilgrim Fathers’ Church in Delfshaven. When I moved to the Netherlands for my studies, I got a Christian boyfriend. He used to read in the Bible, and his stories about Jesus and God really touched me. Then came a difficult period in my life. Things weren’t going well in my studies and I became ill – so ill even that I ended up in hospital and became paralysed in both legs. Two friends visited me in hospital to pray for me. I’m far too down-to-earth for that sort of thing, but it really worked and I was walking again shortly after. The God of the Bible is very simple and pure. He was there for me when I had no one to turn to. My family are still Hindu. This makes things quite complicated, particularly during festivals. Which means I skip those, but it remains difficult.”