Do you know what Ramadan is? I’ll be honest. My knowledge of it is pretty superficial but I think even that understanding is important. Taking away the unknown and the fear and judgement that can sometimes accompany it is a great first step in love and acceptance. The love and acceptance that Jesus told us to embrace. That’s why I believe that Christians should observe Ramadan.
When I was a teacher, we had a lot of celebrations in my classroom. They were fun, of course, but they were educational too. Our class observed Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Hanukkah to name a few. And every year, we hosted a Passover Seder for other classes in our division. Oh, did I mention that I taught at a Catholic school? You might wonder why we took part in Jewish celebrations when we were Catholic. It all began when my Grade 8s expressed shock at learning that Jesus was a Jew. I realized then that they had no real understanding about their heritage as a Christian.
Later, when 9/11 happened, my kids were consumed by it. They wanted to understand. I wanted them to understand that this was a terrible tragic event carried out by extremists – it was not what Islam was all about. So, we started learning about it as well. My principal found a man from the local mosque who could come in and teach my class (and let’s be honest, me too!) about what it means to be Muslim. Learning more about our own faith as well that of Muslims and Jews became the major focus for our entire year.
“In societies increasingly made up of people of different cultures and religions, people must learn the art of dialogue and reach out to others with respect and friendship,” Pope Francis said.
Don’t worry; I’m not suggesting anything drastic. I’m not trying to say you need to follow all of the rules of Ramadan. You can observe without participation. I do think that knowing when Ramadan occurs and the basics of what it entails can help bring us closer to God and to our Muslim friends.
This year (2018), Ramadan begins the evening of May 15 and ends the evening of June 14. The dates change every year. I’ve heard some people compare the time of Ramadan to our celebration of Lent but while Lent is technically optional for Christians, Ramadan is required for Muslims. It is said to be the holiest month of the Muslim calendar.
How Christians can Observe Ramadan
Learn more about it and about Islam in general.
Get some books from your library. Ask your priest for some recommendations. You can, of course, also check on the internet but as we know, it is filled with all kinds of misinformation.
Add Muslims to your daily prayers
I pray for people of other faiths at least once a week (I have a sort of rotating calendar of prayer intentions). But during Ramadan this year, I plan to pray for Muslims every day. And no, my prayers aren’t going to be ones hoping for their conversion to Christianity. They are going to be ones supporting them in their own faith and in their lives, as they go through Ramadan.
Did you know that during Ramadan, Muslims fast from early morning through sunset each day? Fasting for us often means restrictions to our food but Muslims must abstain from food, drink, smoking, sex, and all sinful behaviour (swearing for example). We could consider joining them in solidarity even for just one day. After all, fasting is not unknown to our faith anyway. Jesus himself fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.
Reach out to some Muslims in your community.
Perhaps you could talk to your church and see about arranging some kind of interfaith get-together. The CWL could invite Muslim women to an afternoon tea before Ramadan begins. Or the whole church could host an evening meal, beginning after sunset to honour and respect the restrictions of Ramadan, for Muslims in the community.
I was incredibly proud of my class the year we did our interfaith studies. Instead of responding to the tragedy of 9/11 with anger and judgement towards all Muslims, they reached out with love and compassion. They learned and then educated others. They were beautiful role models of Jesus for our community. Isn’t that what we are all called to be?