Today, Muslims around the world begin celebrations of Eid al Fitr, the three day festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Since the waxing crescent moon rose in the night sky in the first week of May, signalling the commencement of Ramadan, I have fasted alongside my Muslim friends for the first time.
Ramadan is a month of sacrifice and introspection. Fasting for Ramadan requires abstinence from all food, drink and vices from dawn until dusk for twenty nine to thirty days, whilst turning the mind towards good and charitable thoughts and actions, and throughout and above all, connecting and reflecting more deeply on one’s personal faith; thus drawing closer to God.
I was raised Greek Orthodox, not Muslim. There are several reasons I chose to join my Muslim friends in their practice during this, the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar. This year Ramadan coincided with my time working in Beirut with Brussels based NGO SB OverSeas, where as part of a small team of Syrian teachers and international volunteers, I teach Syrian children from Shatila Refugee Camp. I quickly developed strong bonds with the friends I’ve made in Beirut; a beautiful product of channelling your collective energy into a sometimes intense, sometimes painful, but passionately shared purpose. Consequently, fasting alongside them felt a natural choice; partly in solidarity, as much as for my own understanding of what Ramadan really means for them; my colleagues; the culture I am living in; and the children and families I am here for.