To all the Muslim friends who read this blog - Ramadan Mubarak!
Last year at this time, I was beginning the fast, in partnership with a number of Muslim and Christian friends, including Eboo Patel (of Interfaith Youth Core) and Nadyne and Soraya - the Peace Moms..
The fast was far more rigorous than I imagined (especially going without water), and more rewarding as well. It helped me as a Christian to draw closer in friendship and understanding with my Muslim friends. And it helped me enter more deeply into the Christian practice of fasting too. Its positive effects have stayed with me through this whole year.
Just as I think it would be meaningful for a Muslim or Jew to participate in Advent or Holy Week with a committed Christian, or for a Christian or Muslim to share Passover with a committed Jew, it was meaningful for me to share in Ramadan with my Muslim friends. Thanks to those who were so hospitable to me!
This year I was considering participating again, but the decision was made for me earlier this summer when I got sick and had some liver damage as a result. Since I'm still on the mend, it doesn't seem wise to stress my system, although I may join in the last week or so.
Throughout Ramadan, I'm going to be doing all I can to speak up about the growing Islamaphobia in the US. Many sectors of the Christian community are squandering whatever moral authority they have left by failing to stand up to this anti-Christian spirit of fear and exclusion. It violates Jesus' core teaching and betrays his example. I got a taste of what it must feel like to be Muslim in "Christian" America last year when I shared in Ramadan. It wasn't pleasant. If that's what popular American Christianity is becoming - just another tribal religion that incites "us" against "them" - no wonder so many people don't want to be part of it.
Of course, as the Taliban's horrible murders of Christian mission workers in Afghanistan make clear, religion-inspired fear and supremacy show up in every religion. So my prayer is that during Ramadan, a desire for peace and reconciliation will flow like a refreshing wind through Islam as never before. May such a wind blow everywhere and among us all!
Thank God, many of us are doing what we can to model a better way. Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others are realizing that Jesus was right - those who live by the sword (or mockery, fear, exclusion, hatred, etc.) will die by it. The "way, truth, and life" embodied in Jesus wasn't about fearing and marginalizing the other: it was about identifying with the other, befriending the other, loving neighbor and stranger and even enemy as brother or sister. Most Christians don't know that you can't be a good Muslim without believing that Jesus was from God and that his teaching should be followed. That is an important starting point for common ground and growing friendship from which everyone can benefit. Ramadan mubarak!