Ramadan 2009: Part 3

(Continued …)
This desire to build relationships and seek collaboration with people of other cultures and religions has been strong in my life for as long as I remember, even before writing EMC.
But it got even stronger when Phyllis Tickle invited me to write the introductory volume to a series of books she was planning. The series would explore seven practices shared by the three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The book was called Finding Our Way Again. I concluded the book with the dramatic story of St. Francis in the court of the Sultan of Egypt, Malik Al-Kamil, where a Christian and a Muslim individual each transcended the hostility of their warring religious communities long enough to respect one another as human beings. As I wrote the book, I felt how much we needed more Christians to follow the path of St. Francis today, and I rededicated myself, before God, to that pathway.
One of the seven practices shared among Abrahamic faiths, of course, is fasting. But fasting among most Christians is haphazard at best. Most of what I wrote about my own experience of fasting in the book veered towards the humorous, because when it came to fasting, I was admittedly a clumsy neophyte.
All of this was simmering on the back burner last year when Nadyne Parr came up to me and told me about her group Peace Moms. She told me how a Muslim woman and fellow mom named Soraya Deen had become her friend, and for the last two years, Nadyne had joined Soraya in observing the fast of Ramadan. As soon as she told me this, something in my heart said, “Yes! This is a good thing! I should join them!”
So Nadyne kept checking back with me to see if I was serious. I knew I needed a Muslim partner to do for me what Soraya was doing for Nadyne. My first choice was Eboo Patel, a fellow writer and blogger whose work I respect greatly. (If you’ve never read Acts of Faith or learned about the work of Interfaith Youth Core, now is the time to do so.) My hunch was that Eboo might be too busy to add to his duties being my partner in Ramadan, but he responded with warmth and enthusiasm to the idea.
I had shared the idea with a few Christian friends who I know also believe in the importance of interfaith friendship. One of them told me he had already been observing Ramadan for over twenty years, and it had become his favorite month of the year. Another told me he had a lot of friends who he thought would join in too. So here we are … without a lot of lead time … we’ve decided to embark on this journey of faith and friendship.
If your heart moves you, you can find a Muslim friend and see if he or she would be your partner or fast-friend as well. If you’re a blogger and would like to participate, and you’d like to be listed on a synchro-blog list …
(more after the jump)

… stay tuned and we’ll share a way to join in this shared experience.
These are the four commitments that everyone in the synchroblog will share …

1. We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness. Each of us will have at least one Muslim friend who will serve as our partner in the fast. These friends welcome us in the same spirit of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness.
2. We will seek to avoid being disrespectful or unfaithful to our own faith tradition in our desire to be respectful to the faith tradition of our friends. For example, since the Bible teaches us the importance of fasting and being generous to the poor, we can participate as Christians in fidelity to the Bible as our Muslim friends do so in fidelity to the Quran.
3. Among the core values of Ramadan are self control, expressing kindness, and resolving conflicts. For this reason, if we are criticized or misunderstood by Christians, Muslims, or others for this endeavor, we will avoid defending ourselves or engaging in arguments. Instead, we will seek to explain ourselves humbly, simply, and briefly when necessary, connecting with empathy to the needs and feelings of others as we express our own.
4. Our main purpose for participating will be our own spiritual growth, health, learning, and maturity, but we also hope that our experience will inspire others to pray and work for peace and the common good, together with people of other faith traditions.
May God bless all people, and teach us to love God and love one another, and so fulfill our calling as human beings.