Peace Catalyst likes to get people together and Ramadan is a great time to do that. Our Muslim friends are already gathering many evenings throughout Ramadan to break their fasts together. Sometimes they invite us into their space to share this meal with them. But sometimes, too, my Christian friends push back and resist accepting the invitation. Perhaps they are fearful of the unknown. Sometimes they don’t want to appear supportive of another religion. Some have told us that we are wrong or naïve to take people into the mosques, so let me lay out a few reasons why I think it’s important for you to attend an iftar meal during Ramadan.
- You are serious about your faith so you want to avoid breaking the 9thcommandment – Remember that commandment about not bearing false witness? Let’s face it, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Some people unintentionally quote and repeat things that are inaccurate. I remember reading Christian books about Islam, some by missionaries, that
werejust wrong. Maybe they supposed that all 1.5 billion Muslims believed the same things based on what they had encountered in a particular culture. When I actually sat down and talked to Muslims, I realized that I had been fed a bunch of fake hummus. The Muslims I met didn’t believe what I had read in some of those books. We really need to talk to individual Muslims to learn what motivates and inspires them, rather than lumping everyone together. You can do that at a local iftar.
- It’s what Jesus taught his disciples to do – Remember when Jesus took the disciples through Samaria and he talked to the Samaritan woman? He seemed to delight in stretching them and showing them things religion had gotten wrong. He touched lepers, ate with sinners, talked to women, healed on the Sabbath and asked his disciples to follow him. I wonder what they were thinking when Jesus said, “We’re gonna stay a couple of days with the Samaritans.” (Martin’s paraphrase 🙂 ) Or what about the time he got them in a boat to go to the region of the Gerasenes, where the Gentiles were raising pigs? If you follow Jesus, he is likely to call you into some uncomfortable places, places you’d rather not go, but places where he wants to do some amazing things. If you’ll read John 4 and Mark 5, I suspect some of my Christian friends will see several parallels with attending an iftar.
- You want to be blessed. – Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers. You are tired of hearing about hate crimes and shootings around the world. You believe Jesus offers hope for a better future, so you are willing to risk being a peacemaker. Quoting from Psalm 34, Peter tells his readers to seek peace and pursue it! It is simple obedience to actively pursue peace.
Psalms 34:12-14 (NIV) Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
- God created us to be in
relationship. – The consequences of the rebellion described in the Garden of Eden include the breaking of relationships: between God and man, between man and nature, between Adam and Eve, and the rebellion brought death instead of abundant life. God immediately set about to rectify this. Cain and Able didn’t get it right, but we can. Paul tells us that we have been charged with the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NLV) And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
- The food is great and the conversations are even better if you are open to such things. Seriously, all faith traditions like to eat together; Passovers, church dinners, iftars. There is something about sharing a meal together that facilitates relationships, but some people say we shouldn’t eat together. Jesus was sometimes criticized for eating with the “wrong people.” You might be too. WWJD?
If you’re uncertain about what you might be getting into, welcome to the world of being a disciple of Jesus. Bloomberg shared a good factual summaryof what happens during Ramadan. They pose a series of common questions and answers, but there are better questions to be asked and more insightful things to learn. Some things can’t be asked from a distance. Some questions require a friend to ask, like “Do you get headaches from not eating?” or “Does Ramadan make you feel close to God or are you just happy when it’s over?” or “Does God ever speak to you through dreams or visions?”
The world’s problems cannot be solved by your attending a single iftar, but you are invited. It’s a critical first step to loving others as we have been loved. It is one small way that you can promote peace with the Prince of Peace.
-Photo compliments of Jerry McBroom Photography from a Peace Catalyst iftar meal at the American Turkish Friendship Center.