When Christians Invite Muslims for Iftar
By Ras H. Siddiqui
One can argue that the reporting window on Ramadan activities has now expired, as it is already way past Eid. But we would be remiss if this article was not written because of the significance of the invitation. Rev. Alan Jones, Senior Pastor, and members of the St Mark’s Methodist Church congregation in Sacramento invited members of SALAM, CAIR, a local Turkish group and other area Muslims for Iftar on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 in what turned out to be quite an evening of developing understanding between faiths. And the sights of Muslims being served Iftar by Christians and holding their evening prayers inside a Church were something one would call significant in itself.
The emailed invitation said: “St. Mark’s United Methodist Church is hosting an Iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast. The dinner is for our members and invited Muslim guests. Come share fellowship at the table and help tear down walls between our communities.” One can add that is exactly what it did. SALAM’s Dr Metwalli Amer and Imam Kashif were there invited to make the Magrib prayer call and to lead us here.
The evening started out with inspirational songs and music while the gathering increased in numbers. After Rev Alan welcomed everyone, several guests were invited to share their views on Ramadan and its relevance to their lives. Interestingly enough, most of the speakers that volunteered were Muslim women!
The tables were laid out with dates and walnuts and the all- important jugs of water since this was a warm Sacramento evening. After the breaking of the fast and prayers upstairs the cuisine served was Mediterranean and it was also a joint Christian-Muslim effort, starting with a hearty soup and followed by the main course.
What was the most inspiring aspect of the evening? It had to be what was taking place at the individual tables as Christians and Muslims interacted with each other as members of the human family, many with their kids present. Breaking bread together can do wonders. There is so much tragedy and violence already in the world, and some of it in the garb of religion. But right here at St Marks the picture was very different. It was people sharing food and their lives in peace, in Sacramento, the capital of California. This news may not make the headlines because it is not sensational enough. But for those who believe that humanity is basically one and that we must strive to live together, this gathering was a refreshing start.
I had the opportunity to share with someone I had met for the first time here that Christianity was never alien to people like me. The better schools in South Asia are Christian schools and many Pakistani parents (including mine) made sure that we attended them. Many of us were taught by the Brothers of the Holy Cross in Pakistan and Christians were also our classmates. But one has to admit that even I was a bit surprised when amongst the Muslims praying inside St Marks, as I looked to the right I found Rev Alan Jones praying with us. One can only hope that Christians, Jews and Muslims worldwide learn from his bold gesture of goodwill.