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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Minute for Mission: Fasting Season of Ramadan begins


March 11, 2024

Breaking fast together

A church and mosque side-by-side in downtown Beirut. (provided)

In the heart of Beirut, mosques and churches stand side-by-side. The Prophet Elijah Cathedral, a Greek Melkite Catholic Church, is one of those churches. Father Agapios Kfoury wanted to do something different in the middle of Nejme Square when he started serving this parish in late 2013. He wanted to build bridges of knowledge and understanding. And so was born the idea of co-hosting iftar meals during Ramadan to break the daily fast.

He shared, “Since we had a very small community back then (around 40) we decided that the Volunteers from Adyan (an interfaith local nonprofit) should be same number. We hosted 92 people that first year and the food was all homemade by the Adyan Volunteers. The congregation handled all the logistics. And everyone helped to prepare the Cathedral yard with tables, chairs, decoration, speakers, etc. Since then, we only stopped one year due to Covid-19. In 2023 we were over 120 persons.”

Mohammad Alawieh, one of the participants, shared his experience:

“This encounter served as an icebreaker with the different others and created a medium for interaction. Once someone shares your moments with you, they suddenly stop being aliens to you and make dialogue much easier.

“After my first iftar in the church, when I saw that this other had shared their spiritual space, their church, to share with me my very spiritual event, my iftar, I felt I wanted to get to know this community more, and to share with them their spiritual moments. I decided to go to that same church on a Sunday both to share with this community one of their spiritual moments, and to get to know more about their prayers and their worship. I remember the anxiety at the door of the church the first time I went. I remember hesitating entering the church, and the fear of doing something wrong, and so possibly insulting the beliefs of the church. I went in and sat in the back to observe and listen. To my surprise someone noticed my confusion. He got a booklet of the prayers being recited, sat next to me, and showed me where they were reading to follow up. At the end of the mass, they mentioned Muslims in their prayer; this was very heartwarming to me. After the mass everyone gathered outside to have a talk and I was welcomed by everyone. From that point and after this connection was made, I had no problem nor fear to ask them about the details of their religious activities and beliefs, and they started asking me about mine.

“I’m saying all this to say that sharing spiritual moments with the different others brought us closer, eliminated the imaginary walls and guided us to the bridges to connect. It made us see the similarities and reflect on the differences, making space for both of us to ask questions and grow.”

Mohammad continued: “Fasting during Ramadan to me is a very noble practice in itself (if done for the right purpose) even before being religious. You willingly resist your hunger, your thirst, and other needs and desires, to feel with the hungry, the thirsty and the less privileged, tickling your empathy and urging you to be more generous and share the gifts of God. You do it to prepare yourself well, so that when evil threatens to bring you down, you don’t fall. You do it to recognize how blessed you are and to thank God for God’s gifts every day.”

Rev. Dr. Elmarie E-Robinson Parker, PC(USA) Regional Liaison to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon

Today’s Focus: Fasting Season of Ramadan begins

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Nikki Collins, Coordinator, 1001 New Worshiping Communities, Presbyterian Mission Agency 
Paula Cooper, Mission co-worker serving in Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency 

Let us pray

A prayer adapted from the Greek Melkite Catholic Church: O Lord of Heaven and Earth, creator of the human family, we pray for believers of all religions, especially our Muslim siblings, so that they may search for your will in prayer and purity of heart, to worship you and humble themselves before your holy name. Guide us all to find strength in you, so that we may overcome fear and suspicion, grow in friendship, and live together in harmony. Amen.