This winter, I shall further my academic studies in the religious field, where I shall spend a semester abroad at Trinity College of Dublin, Ireland. I will be studying “Conflicts, Religions and Peace Building in International Affairs” as I decided to intensify my studies about how we can explore the essential role of religion to promote peace between nations, considering the wealth in diversity, and how usual encounters and dialogue is the way to avoid future conflicts.
But how does this relate with Ramadan?
In my country of Egypt, “Etfadalo Ma3ana!” are very common words to hear when you pass by a group of people that are eating food. This phrase means “please, join us,” in words that express the sincere desire for you to be a part of the meal.
Ramadan in Egypt has its own magical atmosphere; the streets’ decorations; the special musical performances and old songs that welcome Ramadan, the TV shows and even the adjusted workday hours, but the most special time is when we all gather to break fast together.
We – as Christians – believe that we wait for Ramadan more than our Muslim brethren! We wait for it annually to experience such a unique and wonderful time where we all gather around the table and have our meal together, asking all and everyone passing by “Etfadalo Ma3ana!” For we believe that food is better when we share it with others.
In 2013, I was selected to be a part of a preparatory group for a youth forum that was held in Kaub, Germany, where we were youth from various religious backgrounds: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Baha’i. It was my first inter-religious experience that coincidentally overlapped with Ramadan. Our fellow Muslim participants were fasting and it was astonishing that I fasted with them (for one day) and had ‘Iftar’ together. Everyone were wondering about it, but they didn’t realize how simply breaking fast together strengthens our ties and brings us closer together.
I was recently admitted to a Master’s program of “Intercultural and Inter-religious Theology” at Goettingen University in Germany, where nowadays you cannot experience the real Ramadan atmosphere! So, yesterday I invited all my Muslim friends to have ‘Iftar’ together at my place and play some ‘Ramadan’ Egyptian songs. In an attempt to restore this spirit, some European friends joined us, and they knew a lot about Ramadan rituals. We had a dialogue about how aggressive and extremist attitudes that invade the world in the name of Islam affect young Muslims more than any other traditions! This conversation allowed our friends to explore this issue from new perspectives, all while we were breaking fast.
This is how you experience the real meaning of “Etfadalo Ma3ana.”