5 Responses to Ramadan
The Muslim fast of Ramadan is upon us, leaving many Christians and Messianic Jewish Israelis apprehensive about the month to come. How do we respond to this month? Will there be increased tensions and violence?
Many people around me, in fact, seem to equate this month-long fast with violence and heaviness. However, I have been surprised to realize that most Messianic Jewish Israelis and even Palestinian Christians have very little knowledge of this month that impacts not only Muslims, but also the culture around us. Most also have almost no relationship with the Muslims in their neighborhoods and cities.
Celebrated in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is considered the most significant month of the year by Muslims and often the happiest, commemorating the first revelation of the Quran to Mohammed. It is a time of fasting and earnestly seeking God, breaking the daily fast alongside friends and family.
Here are 5 ways that we, as Christians and Messianic Jews, can change our responses to this month.
Love without fear. Considering the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:18 and Mark 12:31), with the story of Samaritan and Jew (2 people groups with a lot of fear and separation between them) given as an example of who a neighbor is (Luke 10:25-37), and the exhortation to love someone even if we are afraid they may be our enemy (Matthew 5:44), it is clear that we must love.
According to the Scriptures that Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians both share, “...There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18) and love does not dishonor others, it is not proud, it does not boast, it is kind and it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13). We have no excuse, not even fear, and our love cannot come from a place of pride but of respect.
Learn more about Ramadan so that we can understand what this holiday means for our neighbors. We see that Paul even educated himself about another religion and used that knowledge to better explain his own faith when he conversed with the Greeks about the “unknown god” (Acts 17:22-34). Rather than fear the other religion, he carefully observed their places of worship, leading him to notice the inscription he refers to.
Another important step, as mentioned in the description of love, is to get rid of our pride and show respect. This does not mean to adhere to things we do not believe in, but rather to change the way we behave towards the Muslims around us and the way we talk about them.
We share a history of arrogance and distrust towards the Muslim community, which has harmed our witness. Too often, we only relate if we are in a position of power, even if we think we are helping, such as giving humanitarian aid to needy Muslims. This may make us feel good, but it’s not a relationship and it’s not empowering. Rather, we need to develop genuine friendships and acknowledge the positive contributions of our Muslim neighbors.
Another step is to reach out and take the initiative in ways that seek to be a blessing. If we have Muslim friends or coworkers, ask them about their traditions for Ramadan. They will likely invite you to an iftar meal to break the fast. If you do not have such relationships, make them. Make an effort to make eye contact, smile, speak with someone different from you, and go out of your way to help your closest Muslim neighbors in some way. These small gestures could be the beginning to authentic relationship.
Lastly, pray for the Muslim community during this time. Many Muslims sincerely seek God and desire to have a deeper knowledge of Him; pray that He will answer the cries of their heart. Pray for freedom from both the hatred that is being directed at them in the name of Western Christianity and for the hatred within their own community.
Most importantly, pray that we would better know how to love, even sacrificially, loving our Muslim neighbors as much as we love ourselves and our own community.