Approximately 1.6 billion Muslims around the globe are fasting from sunrise to sunset during the 30 days of Ramadan. Though it is widely celebrated by those who choose to participate, it also brings heightened pressure for non-Muslims to fast alongside their Muslim neighbors. The pressure to comply often comes from social discrimination, but in countries such as Algeria or Morocco, where Islam is the state religion, breaking the Ramadan fast in public is punishable by a fine and imprisonment.
For Cala, a 26-year-old student, the social pressure comes primarily from Muslim relatives. Although she has been a Christian for several years, her Muslim father still forces her to participate in the Ramadan fast. “I converted to Christianity since an early age, thanks to my older brother, one of the first Christians in my village,” she shared. “He shared the message of the Gospel with me and I accepted it easily. But my father opposed my conversion and he tries to control my life,” she told World Watch Monitor.
“As the month of Ramadan approached, my father warned me in advance that he wants me to observe the month-long fasting. He wants me to stay with my married sisters and other relatives, to make sure I do not eat,” she explains.
Cala remembers a time when her father was not so strict. He changed when his fellow villagers began to pressure him. “I remember it was my father himself who brought home a Bible that was offered to him. My brother was converted first, then some of my sisters and then me. When the villagers became aware of our conversion, they began to put pressure on my father. They threatened to exclude him from the village and no longer speak to him,” she shared.
As the social pressure mounted, so did his fears of losing his place in the village. Caving to the social pressure, Cala’s father forced his children to fast during Ramadan and not to speak openly about their Christian faith.
Many Christian converts in Algeria have shared similar experiences while still living with their parents. Speaking with World Watch Monitor, Sirah another Algerian Christian who converted from Islam said, “My family puts tremendous pressure on me during Ramadan. They always insist that I have to fast, although they know that I converted to Christ. It is as if they refuse to admit that I became a Christian.”
This pressure is not exclusive to Christians. People of other faiths, including atheists, also face pressure from Islamic clerics and security forces. In 2010, two Algerian Christians were taken to court for publicly breaking the fast, although they were later acquitted.
Activism during the month of Ramadan is increasingly making headlines in Algeria. Last year, during Ramadan, there was a coordinated effort by the police in Kabylie, a region in the north, to arrest public non-fasters. The crackdown sparked a wave of outrage among human rights activists. Hundreds staged picnics in protest against ‘forced’ fasting. This year, a call for a similar demonstration held on July 3 was posted on Facebook by protesters demanding respect of freedom of conscience.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Morocco, eating between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan is also a punishable offense. On June 30, two organizations held a press conference at the headquarters of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) in Rabat to demand the right to eat in public during Ramadan without being harassed by the authorities.
The “Alternative Movement for Individual Freedoms” and the “Council of former Muslims” have criticized Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code, which is used as a mandate to punish anyone eating in public during Ramadan, media report. Article 222 says: “Whoever, while known for his membership in the Muslim religion, ostensibly breaks the fast in a public place during the time of Ramadan, without grounds permitted by this religion, is punishable by imprisonment of one to six months and a fine of 12 to 120 dirhams.”
For non-fasters, the prohibition of eating in public during Ramadan is a hindrance to the personal freedoms guaranteed by Article 3 of the Moroccan Constitution, which says ” Islam is the state religion, which guarantees all the free exercise of religion.”
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, the spiritual battle waged in the heavens is being staged right now during the Ramadan season. Tensions are heightened as temperatures soar, and the daylight extends for hours on end. Even those who are taking a stand and disobeying their governments; Father fill them with patience, wisdom and courage to only do things that bring honor to you. Lord Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace, You are the Alpha and Omega, You are Lord over all. Today, we pray that this becomes abundantly clear to millions of Muslims who are seeking truth at this time; reveal Yourself and draw them close to You. In the name of Jesus, who pierces the darkness with the light of His truth. Amen.