I received strange glances and expressions of doubt when I said that I would be fasting for Ramadan this year. What business does a non-Muslim have in fasting for Ramadan? What is there to gain from depriving yourself of food and water during some of the hottest and longest days of the year? Why should I care?
This month, I will attempt to engage in routine prayer and meditation. I will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, and a will make an effort to quell violent and hurtful thoughts and speech. I will attempt to read a significant amount of the Qur’an and New Testament and participate in volunteer and charity efforts that benefit the local or global community.
I am presented with an opportunity to grow in my humanity. This past year, I have constantly found myself over-committed and lacking time for proper reflection and growth. I look forward to taking this time to grow consciously – to nourish relationships, reflect on my goals and values, and grow in love, peace, and humility. In starving my senses, I become aware of the beauty of life that surrounds me. Participating in Ramadan is a test of my personal commitment and ability to set aside the year (and years) ahead for long-term and life-long inner transformation.
Ramadan, to me, is not a ritual shrouded in Oriental mystique, but a profound period of spiritual development and ascension that is practiced by dozens of my friends and colleagues, hundreds of Chicagoans, and thousands of Americans. In a society that often sets spirituality in the periphery of life, the chance to engage in a period of reflection and intention is an opportunity not to be missed.
I have been reminded that I am a non-Muslim. Having been raised in the Catholic tradition, I am familiar with periods of reflection and abstention, and have fond moments of looking forward to Lent as a time to grow closer to God. I still look forward to Lent as a time to focus on the spiritual dimensions of life, but as I grow as an interfaith leader and as I grow to recognize the inherent wisdom in the diverse spiritual expressions of humanity, I see the value in reaching beyond faith divisions and embracing those elements that will guide me on my journey to the Divine.
My decision to fast is also a multi-faceted act of solidarity. In doing so, I am not only standing in solidarity with all the hungry and suffering in the world and with Muslim brothers and sisters. I am standing with all who face persecution based on their religious identities. As we have seen in years passed, Muslims face discrimination and persecution in the United States and elsewhere. As an interfaith leader, I take issue and fight to counter not only this faith-based division, but all acts of faith-based division around the world.
In fasting, I hope to make a conscious commitment to continue my work in the world. Thousands around the world not only suffer from lack of food and water, but from lack of acceptance, love, understanding, and a place to call home. Let us all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, take time to remember this reality and remember our power to change the world for the better during this month.
An original post by Peter Dziedzic, a World Faither