Breaking fast together bolsters religious tolerance, understanding
The Ramadan custom of breaking the day-long fast with a communal meal has led to new friendships springing up between Muslims and Christians. A group known as Interfaith Youth In Action organized one of these evening meals, commonly known as Iftar, in Lahore's Loyola Hall on Saturday. The event was one of many organized nationwide by Church groups to mark the month of Ramadan. At Loyola Hall 30 guests, about half of them Muslims, raised their hands for prayers or made the sign of the cross as the siren from a nearby mosque signaled the end of fasting for the day. “It was the first time I've prayed at a Church place, but I did not feel any difference as God can be remembered anywhere. I felt His presence here,” said Asma Hussain, a Muslim educator. “Religious intolerance has resulted in things like Hindu migration from Pakistan and anti-Christian violence. Our survival lies in sharing." “Fellowship around a table is very important in boosting friendships," said Jesuit Father Imran Ghouri, who was also at the gathering. "Hospitality gives us a chance to understand each other on a human level, irrespective of religious or political affiliations.” But the event was not without hitches. “Many Muslims declined the offer after they learned that the meal would be at a Church place," said Shahid Ghouri, the youth group's founding president. "There's a perception in society against eating meals cooked and prepared in a Church.” Despite the obstacles, he pronounced the event a success. “The interaction produced results," he said. "Many have now become friends on Facebook." On the same evening, Christian Welfare Organization observed the Ramadan spirit by distributing sacks of flour among Muslim women. The Muslim community returned the gesture with three women performing namaz, a ritualized Islamic prayer, at a local foundation house.
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