Ramadan is the Holy Month for Muslims. This takes place during the ninth lunar month of Ramadan. Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink from dawn till sunset. Last year this happened to be in the very hot summer days. With prayer and fasting one is reminded of a greater need that only God can fill. Muslims are also called to have a deepened compassion for the poor and hungry, as well as to have a clearer sense of one's relationship to the Creator. The call also to conversion and so better respond to God's will is also an important ingredient of the month.
The Columban Parish of St. Thomas in Badin invited some Muslim friends and also a few Hindu acquaintances to share in an Iftari meal at the parish. They were all ordinary people with whom we have some dealings with in our day to day activities. Persons who work in shops such as grocery, tea, stationary, plumbing etc. The leader of the local mosque also accepted our invitation.
They arrived before sunset and asked to be allowed to have a visit in our church. Before entering the church they removed their shoes. They took great interest in the pictures of the Stations of the Cross. They had their photos taken standing beside the statue of Mary. Muslims have great respect for Mary, holding her as the Virgin Mother of Jesus. In the Holy Quran Mary's name is mentioned 34 times.
It was becoming closer to sunset, so we proceeded over to the parish house. As we sat down together on the floor the siren sounded from the nearby mosque announcing that the sun had set and it was time to end the day's fast. Hands were put forth in quiet prayer. To open the fast, sweet drinks are taken as well as the eating of dates and fruit. After partaking of this I enquired if they wanted to go to the mosque for the evening prayer and then return for the main food. They responded that they would eat the food first and then pray later.
We, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, numbered about thirty. Many of the Christians were involved in cooking and serving the food and drinks. They certainly ate well indicating that they had carried out a genuine fast. They were mainly quiet while eating. One of them named Mushtaque, proclaimed. "By your inviting us here to give us hospitality at this iftar meal in the month of Ramadan you will gain more graces from God than what we receive by observing this day's fast." At the end of the day we prayed together quietly with hands open. They were so very grateful that we had given them hospitality during this Ramadan.
Before departing we presented them with tree saplings and cloth bags as a token that we are all God's children and need to be responsible in caring for creation. Copies were distributed of the message from the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious dialogue on the occasion of Ramadan and the upcoming feast of Id-Al-Fitr. This was titled "Christians and Muslims – Caring for our Common Home." The theme was related to Pope Francis Encyclical Letter "Laudato Si" on Care for our Common Home which was addressed not only to Catholics and Christian, but to the whole of humanity.
Ramazan, the leader of the local mosque, invited some of us Christians to his home to celebrate the Eid Festival at the end of the fasting month. We enjoyed a very tasty meal and gracious hospitality. I have felt that from inviting people for the Iftar meal that it has made for a better bonding between our communities. If any negative happening would occur I feel that these people would stand in solidarity with us.
Columban Fr. Daniel O'Connor lives and works in Pakistan.