Loving our Muslim Neighbors this Ramadan

By Suzy Baroud | Jun 07, 2018
Suzy Baroud

We didn’t have any idea what we were getting ourselves into when we hosted our first Ramadan Iftar Celebration at Edmonds Lutheran Church in 2016.

We didn’t know of any other church that had hosted such an event, and of course we didn’t know what to anticipate regarding the community’s reaction. What if nobody showed up? What if fellow churches expressed skepticism or protest?

What if the Muslim community was afraid of taking the bold step of practicing their Muslim faith, praying, breaking their fast and sharing their meal with members of our predominantly white, Christian neighborhood?

As the Ramadan season approached in June that year, Faith Action Network, an interfaith advocacy group, sent an email to participating organizations challenging them to make an outward expression of solidarity with the Muslim community during the month of Ramadan.

It was a courageous yet natural and necessary step we felt compelled to take in the midst of a growing sense of Islamophobia in our community and our nation.

We were so encouraged to find that when we reached out to two local mosques to partner in this effort, one in Shoreline and the other in Redmond, their unified and resounding response was “Yes!” Preparations were made with a feeling of excitement and anticipation.

Christians breaking bread with their Muslim neighbors for Ramadan was a small but profound action that we all felt we called to do.

It is certain that this evening included many “firsts” for all of us. It was the first time for many of our Muslim neighbors sat in the sanctuary of a Lutheran Church. It was certainly the first time for many of our church members and neighbors to hear a message delivered by a Muslim about Ramadan and fasting as a spiritual practice.

It was the first time for many of us to actually observe Muslims praying as they prostrated themselves in the sanctuary of Edmonds Lutheran Church. Two hundred gathered in the sanctuary that was bursting at the seams. People from Bosnia, Gambia, Palestine, Edmonds, Shoreline – from the Eastside to East Africa, it was if they were all saying “We belong together.”

We forgot to make an announcement asking people to mingle, to sit with someone they didn’t know, maybe with someone they might otherwise feel awkward to socialize with. But it just happened naturally, and the visiting, laughing and eating together went on till late in the night.

This special evening has grown throughout the years, and this coming Iftar Celebration will mark the sixth time in three years that we have intentionally gathered to eat together, learn from one another and make new and lasting friendships.

We have been joined by people of other faiths, as well as community leaders, city council members, state senators and local mayors.

Please come and join us this year, Saturday, June 9, at 6:30 p.m. Maybe you would like to take “Ramadan Challenge” yourself and fast on that day. If an entire fast from food and drink seems a little overwhelming, maybe just fast from caffeine or chocolate.

The purpose of the fast is to draw into your spiritual self and to gain a greater consciousness and empathy for those who don’t have enough to eat. But this is certainly not a prerequisite to joining us. We will enjoy an inspiring lecture by a local Muslim author and a local Imam, and we will all break bread together at 9 p.m.

Please come, for our community is learning that Ramadan is for everyone. We are also striving to have a deeper understanding of the same command that our two faiths advocate: “Love one another.”

For this event, Edmonds Lutheran Church is partnering with the Cherry Street Mosque and Al-Islam Center of Seattle. Brother Benjamin Shabazz, Iman of Al-Islam Center and Dr. Ramzy Baroud, author and fellow at University of California, Santa Barbara, will engage in a dialogue and discussion titled “What Has the Quran Taught Me About Loving My Neighbor?”

It’s free and open to all. RSVP is appreciated, by not required, by calling 425-744-8090.

 

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