Last night I shared in my first Iftar meal this year. A small group of us joined a community of Muslims who we have got to know well, in their centre, not a Mosque, where they prayed and we ate. It was a most enjoyable evening with friends talking about our experiences of fasting – its pains and joys. And the meal – well, what can I say, lots of food, starting with a date and a cup of water. Lots of stories, and then they asked us about Easter – what does it mean for you? How do you celebrate it – food – of course! I could talk about breaking my fast on Easter as I re-engage with my addictions – tea, coffee, alcohol and cheese – making Easter day such a special day in so many ways. At one point before the meal one of our friends recited the Adhan – the call to prayer, before inviting us to say a prayer of blessing for the food. And then we ate – for us just another meal but for our Muslim friends it was so much more, and carried real significance. Having eaten, they went in small groups into the next room to pray.
It truly was a special evening as we, people of faith, shared our experiences. For the Christians it provided an opportunity to recount the events of Holy Week, as we were asked questions about the significance of these events for us. For me it was a reminder of just how important the celebration of Easter is for Christians, that Christianity stands or fall on the resurrection of Jesus. But, also, how difficult it is to talk with people whose world view is so alien to our understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Building Relationships of Years
This group has been meeting for a few years and at some point in the each meeting we’ve had the opportunity to share the ‘Good News’ – they have heard it often, but always come back to ask for more. And what brings them back to ask the questions is the relationship that has been built over years. We ended the evening by asking when we should meet again – next month, and then they suggested, ‘It’s near your festival of Pentecost – why don’t you tell us about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit?’ ‘It would be a privilege’. And indeed, it will.
Ramadan is a wonderful opportunity to get alongside our Muslim neighbours, to make friends with them and grow in our understanding of them, which will give opportunity for them to ask us about our faith. They will ask the questions about our faith, when the relationships are established, when they have confidence in us, and they trust us, which inevitably takes time. Ramadan is a time of heighten spirituality, when talking about faith is natural, when questions become a way into lives and worldviews, that are so different to ours. ‘What’s it like fasting?’ ‘How does it feel?’ Even ‘why do you fast and what difference does it make?’ And many other questions.
Let’s make friends with our Muslim neighbours and opportunities to share the good news in the Easter story will inevitably come, quite naturally – Ramadan gives us wonderful opportunities.