On the 20th of July Muslims throughout the world began celebrating Ramadan. This lasts for one lunar month, about 28 days, and is a time of fasting, prayer and deeper intensity in the living out of the Muslim faith. This includes living in greater generosity, justice and peacefulness with others. The daily fast begins before dawn and lasts until sunset, when people gather together to share a large meal. This fasting/feasting is a real discipline and very challenging in Ireland when the summer days are so long. Muslims believe that Allah is particularly merciful to all who faithfully participate in this yearly event.
As a country with a strongly rooted Christian tradition we have, in general, little awareness of this holy season and practice through which Muslims seek to redirect their lives according to the will of the one God. A businessman who runs a popular restaurant, a food-importing business and a mosque in Dublin city centre, has recounted how when he was a boy at school in Dublin, he was teased for fasting. But his children are having a very different experience in a country which now has a Muslim population of almost 50,000.
“It’s great to see how things have changed and how this country has become more diverse. My children’s generation are more accepting of different traditions”, he said.
Are there lessons for life that we can learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers? As Christians we worship the one God as Muslims do. In our holy season of Lent we too recognise the need to turn again to God and to be generous to those who need our help and support. Perhaps learning to understand what is different, but good, in the religious practice of other faiths would be a good thing for us to do. “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.” Nostra Aetate 2
A great, though controversial Christian theologian has said that there can be no peace between peoples unless there is peace between religions. And this peace begins when I open myself a little more to the other who is different from me.