Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Christians Observing Ramadan

Many years ago, I met a young Christian man in passing at the airport in Cairo, who told me that he fasts during Ramadan.

It's not like he just walked up to me and said, "Hi, I'm Christian and I fast during Ramadan." We were talking about being Christian in a city where almost everybody is a practicing Muslim, and I remember asking him what it's like to live in a society where everyday life is arranged to accommodate people with a different belief system than yours, what with everything being closed in the daytime during Ramadan and all.

And that's when he said that he doesn't mind, because he fasts too. Not because he's forced to, but because most of his friends are Muslims and it just seemed like the right thing to do for him.

This conversation happened a long time ago and honestly, I have no idea if this person still fasts or not, but the memory came back to me as I was reading an article on Al-Arabiya about a Mike Kanawati who is a Christian living in Bethlehem, a Muslim majority city in Palestine that is also home to one of the largest Christian communities here. Mike, just like the airport person, also fasts during Ramadan as if it's the most natural thing to do:

"My grandmother used to fast, both Christian and Muslim fasting, and we were raised this way to show respect for and solidarity with other religions," Kanawati said.

Mike added that some of his Muslim friends fast during Christian fasting periods, too, because in Bethlehem there's a "centuries-old tradition of interfaith solidarity."

Isn't that something?

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