SANTA ANA, Calif. (July 31, 2012) – The following blog is another in a series of blogs from a co-worker in Egypt about the chaotic, changing situation in Egypt over the past few months:
Since I was a child, I always had mixed feelings about Ramadan, the fasting month of Muslims. It’s the festive month when streets are decorated with lights and colorful hanging banners. Many decorative Ramadan lanterns are also tied to windows and balconies. Children are playing in the streets from after the sunset feast until the early hours of the next morning. Night life is very vibrant, cheerful and authentic. Street noise never seems to come to an end. Daytime life in Ramadan, though, is so different — and in many ways so challenging. Muslims are always tired, exhausted and easily impatient. Without anything to eat or even water to drink for 16 hours or more during the daylight hours, some even become so overcome by physical exhaustion that they tend to be more unfriendly and aggressive than usual.
Now, imagine with me what Christian families have to face during this month. We are the “no-fasting” people. We’re looked at as weird, unbelieving creatures since we do not fast the “holy month” with them. At work, we can’t eat or drink in front of our Muslim colleagues, just to avoid those despised, disapproving looks. Indulging in a morning cup of coffee or tea at our desk would be a major sin. Cooking a savory-smelling lunch is certainly an offense.
In many ways, the atmosphere is gloomy and depressing. Forget it if you wish to get some legal papers done in any governmental office. People are either not interested in you, feeling tired and weak, or off praying at a certain corner of their office.
Christian children are sometimes confronted by their young Muslim friends with difficult, blunt questions: “Why don’t you Christians fast like Muslims? Fasting is a religious duty…fasting is ordered by Allah…” Many Christian children are shunned and mocked by their Muslim friends because they don’t fast during Ramadan.
At the mosques all over Egypt, many Imams use the opportunity of this “holiest month” in the Muslim calendar to send strong, intimidating messages to Christians living in the surrounding community, declaring that “Islam is the answer.” They make clear that according to their Islamic beliefs, the Christian faith in many aspects is not acceptable.
As Christians, we can follow one of two patterns of behavior to cope with these potentially divisive, polarizing aspects of Ramadan among our Muslim neighbors. Many of Egypt’s Christians choose the hiding pattern. “We’ll just stay out of their way, until the month is over” they decide.
But the other pattern is to stay close to our Muslim friends, using this special month to build many bridges by showing them love and respect. Love never fails. Love is the way that will makes us shine and bring the light of Jesus to overcome the darkness in many hearts.
Of all the months of the year, Ramadan is the time when we Egyptian Christians must keep ourselves busy praying for our Muslim friends and neighbors. This is the best time to show them the genuine love of Christ, rather than standing in the middle of a dark room cursing the darkness.
To join the Open Doors USA Prayer Campaign during Ramadan, go to www.opendoorsusa.org/ramadan or http://www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.