Starks family reflection

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Jason and Gretta have moved to Buckshaw Village with their children (Christian 14, Emmanuel 12 and Malachi 10) having previously lived in Manchester.  As a family they see learning to find positive ways to contribute to their neighbourhood and be hospitable as really important.  The family worship at Leyland Methodist Church.  Christian loves photography and music, Emmanuel can usually be found kicking a football, and Malachi is a real book worm.  Jason works in training, currently assisting adults to gain vocational qualifications.  Gretta is a construction project manager by profession, but is presently working for a charity that supports vulnerably housed adults.  

“When we heard about Experiencing Ramadan we were really keen to take part. As a family we believe that one of the ways we can get to know more about our neighbours is by learning from them.  Joining in with a fast and then being invited to join with others in our community as they shared Iftar seemed a really good way to not just hear about Ramadan but to learn by experiencing. We asked the boys if they wanted to try fasting and they were all really excited about joining in too. During the day while we were busy it wasn’t too tricky to go without food and drink, but as the day went on and we started to get low on energy it became more consuming. By the time we left for the Iqra Centre we were all very much looking forward to having a drink.

On the way the boys had lots of questions about what the Centre would be like, and the content of the Iftar. We were welcomed very warmly, and were able to listen to prayers, poems and a reading from the Holy Quran, all of which were translated into English so we could understand the meaning. We learnt that the month of Ramadan is about a time of communal fasting, to encourage a deepening of awareness of God, and solidarity with those who are hungry. Acts of charity, particularly feeding the hungry, are especially encouraged during Ramadan.

As we sat listening I was suddenly reminded of the attacks that have taken place on Mosques in Britain over the last few weeks and months, including the death of Mohammed Saleem on his way home from prayers. For a moment I felt a little unsafe. I realised that I have never felt vulnerable to attack at church, and felt very, very sad that the actions of some have tried to scare and hurt Muslims as they worship, in the place where they should be able to feel most safe and at peace.

It was then time to break fast. I have never broken fast with others before and was surprised by how significant it was to be part of a group of people ending a time of fasting together. There was a feeling of excitement and joy as we ate the dates and water and moved downstairs for the Iftar feast. Fasting as a communal, rather than very personal practice is something I would like to be part of in the future. As we sat together and ate late into the evening the boys asked more questions and reflected on the day. They all wanted to join in again next year. Christian was really struck by how friendly and welcoming everyone had been. Malachi wanted to explore more, and having asked to visit the prayer room again was giving a personal tour. Emmanuel was challenged by the idea that while lack of food harms those in much of the world too much of the wrong sort of food harms many of the rest of us. 

While I believe trying to follow God mainly helps people to try to live better and more loving lives I am deeply troubled and sorry for many of the things people have done and continue to do in the name of Christianity. Reflecting on the experience of participating in Experiencing Ramadan I realised how fortunate I am that it is very unlikely I’ll ever be held accountable by others for the actions of those Christians who have very different beliefs and actions to me, and who do things I disagree with. I want to try in a small way to make sure my Muslim neighbours know that many people understand that Islam, like all the main religions, shouldn’t be used to justify negative actions, and actually rather teaches and encourages positive things that we can all learn from and aspire to.  

Thank you to all who organised the event, and welcomed us so warmly to take part.”

 

Experiencing Ramadan is an opportunity for people of all faiths & none to join the Muslim community in Fasting for a day, raise money for charity & join the Muslim community for Iftar (breaking of the fast) to share reflections and a meal. Experiencing Ramadan 2013 has grown from Preston to Lancaster, Manchester & London. We are looking for partner organisations to host Experiencing Ramadan 2014 in more towns & cities across the UK. http://www.facebook.com/Experiencingramadan

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