Fasting in Ramadan during the long, hot days of summer is not for the faint-hearted. How can we pray for our Muslim friends and neighbours as they fast? What practical steps can we take to show love that builds bridges?
1. Pray for grace. More than 18 hours without food and water is a feat of endurance. Pray for grace for all those fasting. Also show your love through practical steps such as remembering not to organise work or social activities during the evening and especially not as it approaches the time to break the fast. Be sensitive to Muslim colleagues who are fasting at lunch and coffee breaks. Christians in Muslim countries are careful not to eat or drink in the streets during Ramadan out of respect for their fasting neighbours. Those who are fasting in the UK are usually fine with people eating and drinking around them – but they do appreciate it when we take care not to do it too overtly.
2. Pray for safety. Muslims can feel vulnerable as targets of religious and racial prejudice. Pray for their safety and protection. Listen to conversations around you on public transport or in shared work and study space and be ready to stand alongside anyone who is being maligned.
3. Pray for acceptance. Minority communities can feel rejected and misunderstood. For refugees and asylum seekers this feeling is magnified by their recent traumatic experiences. Pray that they would receive the love of God as their father. Look for ways to show practical love by providing food or other necessary items like blankets and toiletries to families in need.
4. Pray for love. Pray that the walls of prejudice and discrimination will be overcome as individuals reach out in love. Inviting a neighbour over for a sunset 'iftur' breakfast meal and eating together late into the night can be a step to building a shared sense of community. If you are offering food, assure your guests that it is halal as they might be too shy to ask. The easiest way is to avoid serving meat and alcohol. But don't be offended if your invitation is turned down; many Muslims have long prayers to say after breaking the fast.
5. Pray for peace. Many Muslim nations in the Middle East, Africa and Asia are conflict zones or recovering warzones. Pray for the families of all those affected. Pray for war to end. Pray for reconciliation. Take time to listen to life stories during the long hours of the day.
When Ramadan finishes on Thursday June 14, the days of fasting change to celebration. This is a time when it is customary to visit friends and relatives, exchange gifts and strengthen community ties. However, for many refugees, their families are missing and the festivities can be dampened. International students can have a similar situation for different reasons Why not reach out and invite Muslims that you have met for a meal or even just for tea and cake? Send plates of homemade biscuits to your neighbours and wish them 'Eid Mubarak' (happy holidays).
Wendy Halloun lives on Mount Carmel with her husband and four children. Her book 'Identity in Messiah: finding strength to stand in the last days'was released in March.