Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Looking Back on Interfaith Ramadan 2014




The response to Interfaith Ramadan has been phenomenal this year. The positive comments, encouragement, and support that I, and the Interfaith Ramadan contributors, have received has been overwhelming. Thank you so much for reading, sharing, and commenting on the series. It's been such a pleasure to get to know new faces and observe new friendships being made as the series progressed. I was touched by the sheer number of private comments and emails I received from people wanting to share their stories and experience of interfaith and their happiness that there are others out there who share their passion. These heartfelt messages were a real blessing for me this Ramadan.

I'm incredibly thankful to the Interfaith Ramadan writers who were willing to put aside precious time from their busy schedules to produce beautiful and inspiring works for others to enjoy. This series was such a source of inspiration for me this Ramadan, they encouraged me, lifted my spirits when I felt down, and motivated me to keep going throughout the month.

Several writers wrote inspiring pieces about interfaith as a lifestyle and described how it had influenced them and their beliefs from childhood into adulthood. Carmen Ibrahim explored the spaces in between our comfortable faith bubble and the world beyond it. Sister Lucy offered her global experiences of interfaith in Monasticism Meets Islam. Others explained how their involvement in interfaith strengthened their personal faith with their own tradition, including Salvation Army officer Nick Coke's piece Interfaith Engagement is a Lifestyle and Charlotte Dando's Are you Open to New Light? which looked at interfaith from a Quaker perspective.

It was wonderful to hear stories from members of Interfaith families, including Susan Katz Miller's vibrant experience of interfaith in Senegal, Solsikke's experience of Being a Christian married to an atheist, and Stephanie Meade intensely personal journey as she finds her way in Ramadan as a non-Muslim.   

There were several articles which focused specifically on the act of fasting. Samra Hussain, as the mother of four young children, shared her expectations and concerns as a mom before Ramadan began and, when we caught up with her afterwards, she thanked all the Interfaith Ramadan readers who had given encouragement and kept her in their thoughts and prayers over the month. 

It was fascinating to hear stories of fasting in other traditions, from Leanna's First Fast as a Baha'i when she was a teen to Crystal S. Lewis's exploration of fasting and reflection within the Christian tradition through her discussion of Isaiah 58. 

This month was also a time when people joined in fasting as an act of solidarity with Muslims around the world. Among the new faces I encountered this Ramadan, I was delighted to discover Rose Virginia Butler and share her inspiring story and her solidarity fast in One day of Pagan RamadanThis Ramadan was also noteworthy because it was the first time in decades that the fast of Tammuz 17 coincided with Ramadan. Many Jews and Muslims used this opportunity to come together in solidarity to support communities and individuals currently facing oppression or suffering persecution. Many found Rabbi Rachel Barenblat's heartfelt message The Walls Begin to Fall on her blog The Velveteen Rabbi particularly helpful during this time of reflection. 

In the spirit of greater community cohesion, there were a large number of informal interfaith iftars this year as well as brilliant events organised by The Big Iftar and Ramadan Tent Project. Dr Andrew Smith shared his experience of an intimate interfaith meal with friends and Julian Bond spoke of a Ramadan of Firsts where Lambeth Palace hosted its first iftar with speakers including Archbishop Justin Welby and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra.

Alongside these beautiful personal stories, there were challenging articles by Jeremy Rodell (Why the faithful need secularism) and Jim Steele (Religious Labels: Constructive or Constrictive? written in response to Should we label children according to their parents' beliefs?), which explored the problems of interfaith when it collides with the raising of children and state education. Similarly, Dr Karl E. H. Seigfried tackled the practicalities of interfaith when it comes finance and the inclusion of 'minority' faiths in Do you believe in Interfaith? 

Several writers offered detailed insights into Islamic terms and concepts. Author Qasim Rashid adapted a chapter of his best-selling book Extremist as a critique against the awful actions of ISIS in Iraq and the surrounding region in A Ramadan Message to ISIS: You Don't Speak For Islam. Farouk A. Peru explored the word islam itself in Other Faiths or Other Paths?  Zaaynab-Le’Von presented various ways in which people of faith can deepen their imaan in Believing is Seeing. Nusrat AbdurRahman looked at the beauty of fajr in Making a case for 'Ramadan Muslims'. And, in her second article for Interfaith Ramadan, Crystal S. Lewis offered insightful commentary on Women's Rights in Christianity and IslamAnd finally, Maryam Din offered a powerful piece on LGBTQ Muslims and the importance of visibility in The Balancing Act of Being A Queer Muslim.

It was a privilege to be approached and interviewed by newspapers, magazines and blogs who wanted to promote positive interfaith stories this Ramadan, including The Guardian's What is it like to be a Muslim in Britain today? and Pinksky magazine's kind words in What's the Future of Interfaith Ramadan?  The warm and friendly interviews with Lucinda Borkett-Jones of Christian Today and Vicki Garlock of Faith Seeker Kids were particularly fun. It was an unexpected surprise to be featured in the Pearl Daisy blogChesterfield Pagans Interfaith: Is There Anybody Out There? and the Christian Muslim Forum Give Peace A Chance, who kindly asked me to write their Eid Greeting this year. The support of brilliant interfaith activists and organisations like Hind Makki, OneHumanist, the Abrahamic Forum, Interfaith Families DC, and the Woolf Institute, was greatly appreciated throughout the month.

My heartfelt thanks to family and friends with special thanks to Peter, Johnny, Julian, Joseph, and Estelle for their constant support and sage wisdom. To Colin and Tauseef who were prepared to drop what they were doing at a moment's notice to proof read at an unearthly hour in the morning! Thank you to Mariam and Esha for their adorable loveliness. And my sincere thanks to Jami, Kristina, Maryam, Sarah, Brenda, and Emilia for their encouragement throughout the month. And a special thank you to all the readers who shared Interfaith Ramadan on social media and helped to promote it this year. 

I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions for Interfaith pieces throughout the year and for Interfaith Ramadan next year. If you'd like to be involved, please get in touch. 

Wishing you all a lovely, peaceful Summer,

Sarah 


2 comments:

  1. It was a privilege to be part of this awesome community. Thanks for your work Sarah friend :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sarah, Thank you for your amazing energy, inclusive spirit, and rigorous intellect, this season and throughout the year. You are a treasure. Susan.

    ReplyDelete

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