I just spent an hour chatting to my friend Fiaz on Radio Ramadan Luton.
It was an enjoyable time. Dr Fiaz Hussain chairs the Luton Council of Mosques, and he and I have got to know each other well as we have worked together a lot over these nine months - ever since cooperation between Jews and Muslims in Luton's Holocaust Memorial Day event (In Luton, Muslims, Jews & people of all faith commemorate Holocaust together) was threatened by events in Gaza, and then as we have sought to address community tension that emerged after the Royal Anglian Homecoming Parade on March 10th (multiple posts here ). In particular we stood together giving leadership to Christians and Muslims call for Peace in Luton.
Once again we were talking
about the way community cohesion has been challenged by these events. It was old ground but before a new audience. We are different, not least in our faiths. Yet we know that both our faiths call us to a common purpose, to love God and love and serve our neighbour. We sometimes don't agree about the way ahead in what we are doing, but we have been able to find a way through. We do that because we honour each other as people made by God. He is as entitled to his view as I am mine, and no less so because he is a Muslim and I am a Christian. I don't have a guarantee that I am right because I am a Christian. (In fact, much as I love to understand, there is a wonderful liberating sense in not having to be right all the time!) And that means I listen to him and he to me! Quite remarkable really! Except it shouldn't be.
There are some radical interactions taking place this year. Emerging church leader Brian McLaren is fasting through Ramadan, partnering with Eboo Patel ( Muslim founder of Interfaith Youth Core and writes regularly in Washington Post ). McLaren's is a brave decision and has already won him criticism, but explains:
We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them.
... 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. ( Ramadan 2009: Part 1 What’s going on?)
For more on McLaren's explanation of his call to observe Ramadan see below the break. He is not the only one, and has himself gained from Peace Moms.
There are other examples of this sort of radical engagement. I am not fasting this year, but would consider it. For now as I said on the radio this evening, my prayer for all my Muslim friends is that they would draw close to God during this month, and know His will for their lives. In humility I don't pretend to know the fullness of that, even though I may want to guess!
McLaren notes that as Christians who are joining in the Ramadan fast he and other participants will share these four common commitments:
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.
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.
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.
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. ( Ramadan 2009: Part 1 What’s going on?)
For more details of McLarens callsee here: Ramadan 2009: Part 1 What’s going on?, Ramadan 2009: Part 2 Why is a committed Christian joining faithful Muslims in observing Ramadan? , Ramadan 2009: Part 3,, Ramadan 2009: Part 4, Ramadan 2009: Part 5), and his first three posts here ( Ramadan 2009: Day 1, Ramadan 2009: Day 3, and his most recent post here: Faith seeking understanding ... as well as latest updates here: