We all know that relationships with others can be transformational. In a world that seems to be dividing at alarming rates we need to sit down with real, living, breathing human beings more often. Thankfully, many of our religious traditions have spaces built into the regular rhythms of life to make this even more possible.
During the month of Ramadan (May 16 – June 15, 2018), many Muslims fast from sunup to sundown, then gather together – in mosques, homes, restaurants, and elsewhere – to break their fast each evening of the month. Sometimes these dinners (called Iftars) are small family affairs, while others are more festive gatherings of larger groups.
This year, we have teamed up with Shoulder to Shoulder, the Islamic Society of North America, and The People’s Supper for The United States of Love over Hate: A Ramadan Supper Series. The primary goal of this effort is to identify, support, and connect people to Iftars open to interfaith guests across the United States, in order to help facilitate local relationship building among Muslim and non-Muslim communities. We will offer guidance to those already planning Iftars, as well as guidance and support to those looking to put together Iftars (including both larger community dinners, as well as home-based dinners).
Additionally, houses of worship are invited to display “Love – Your Neighbors” signs outside their buildings during the month of Ramadan, to show their commitment to standing with and getting to know their neighbors.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a holy month in Islam during which most Muslims throughout the world choose to fast from sunrise to sunset from food, drink, and other things in order to focus upon God. Listen to Sondos and Seher talk with one of our founders about why they participate in Ramadan.
Why should I attend an iftar?
Muslim communities, throughout the United States and the world, have been opening their doors to ‘outsiders’ every Ramadan for many years to share in a communal feast at a common table. To say this is a big deal is a profound understatement. A few very powerful and persuasive people have spent millions of dollars trying to demonize and marginalize the Muslim American community for over a decade, creating a new word (Islamophobia) and a terrifying new reality for Muslim Americans. Every day another instance of hate speech or violence is carried out by people who have bought into this narrative of fear. When you commit to participate in SE7EN FAST this year, you are committing to receiving an invitation to relationships that has been extended to you by Muslims in your community. You are committing to finding a place in your community in which you can be transformed through relationships at a common table of peace.
Why is it called SE7EN FAST?
SE7EN FAST started as a one-day event on 7/7/15, inviting Christians and non-Muslims everywhere to fast in solidarity with Muslims, to give money to the World Food Programme, and to break fast with Muslims in their communities. So, essentially, since it was on 7/7, we decided to call it SE7EN FAST. We realized in 2016 that it didn’t matter whether people were doing this all on the same day, but that people were aware of all of the opportunities to connect with Muslims throughout Ramadan. The first year we had five events. The second year we promoted over 25, and in 2017 we expanded that number to over 160 events in over 30 states. We hope to keep expanding this reach so we can continue to do our part in helping people break down walls of division in their communities.
What inspired you to start SE7EN FAST?
That’s a long story, which you can read here, or watch some stories about here and here. To make that long story much shorter, in 2015 Jessey, one of the co founders of SE7EN FAST, decided to wear the hijab for Lent. It was an act of solidarity, a reminder of what it feels like to be a minority in a community, and an encouragement to her community to love neighbors, strangers, and enemies. During that same period of time, Bassel Riche started a social media movement called #Muslims4Lent. Bassel became a huge encouragement to Jessey during that time. We wanted to do something similar in response to our new friend’s movement and personal encouragement, so we started SE7EN FAST. The rest is history.
Why should people of faith care about this effort?
Fear and hatred of Muslims have no place in our collective Scriptural narrative. We are called to love our neighbors. We are called to love strangers. We are called to love our enemies. This campaign exists to create a moment and a place for knowledge of the other to transform our fear into love (for perfect love casts out fear). Really, #LoveOverHate and events like it, are good for the world. They are one way to participate in healing the world, a task we should all take upon ourselves.
I want to host an iftar, but I don’t know where to begin. Any suggestions?