Deacon Jess Foster muses on the potential of respecting Ramadan for building better community relationships.
Five minutes ago I walked into the house. Its ten to ten at night and my youngest son shouts from his bedroom – there are samosas on the table. And there are. Crispy vegetarian samosas – one for each member of the family – and they are still hot.
These samosas, along with all sorts of other delicious meals and snacks, have been arriving in Ramadan most days for the last 10 years or so. They are cooked by my neighbour who began her fast today. In the last few years we have shared much more than food over the fence – we talk about prayer, parenting, how faith affects our daily life and weather, washing and children.
As an interfaith worker, I am invited to join my friends as they break their fast in mosques and restaurants, in community centres and banqueting suites. I go as often as I can and I have learnt from this hospitality to invite my friends to come with me to church at Christmas or Easter.
Last year, at St Peter’s Hall Green, where I am a curate, we decided to offer hospitality in our church building and we were delighted that about 80 people came together to break the fast – sharing an Iftaar meal. This year we are accepting the hospitality of a local community centre and working with them to offer hospitality to some of the people living in Birmingham who are refugees from Syria and to women who do not come from Muslim families, but have converted (reverted) to Islam and often break the fast alone.
As a church we are learning about the dimensions of both offering and receiving as we explore hospitality together and learn how to build bridges with our neighbours from different faith communities.
For me, the hospitality of being both a guest and host is at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus knew how to be a good guest – I would have loved him to be at my wedding when the wine ran out – and a great host, washing the feet of his tired and dusty guests. The hospitality of God offers us fullness of life on earth and the promise of eternal life. The Holy Spirit built community at Pentecost that broke through cultural and ethnic divides and continues to draw people together both inside and outside the church.
Hospitality turns the stranger into a friend; it opens the door to reconciliation and urges us to see the world through the eyes of another. It might start with a samosa but it could end by opening our hearts, minds and spirits to love our neighbour as our self.
This blog was written on Monday (6th JUne) for the Church Of England blog http://cofecomms.tumblr.com/