Magazine Sri Lanka

Hopes and experiences of Buddhists and Christians celebrating Ramadan

BBC Sinhala interviewed few non Muslims who were fasting during Ramadan to share their experiences and expectations. Here is a translation:

Rehan Jayawickrema is a young politician who represents the main opposition in Sri Lanka. On April 13, he made a startling statement.
“I look forward to spending Ramadan fasting with my Muslim brothers and sisters during the holy month of Ramadan this year. This is the first time I’ve had such luck.


“I am a Buddhist. “I have been trying to follow the Buddhist philosophy all my life,” he told Twitter.

Rehan Jayawickrema is the Chairman of the Weligama Municipal Council of the Southern Province. From the beginning of the month of Ramadan on the 14th of April, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during the day.


April 14 this year was a special day for the Sinhalese and Muslim communities, the majority community in Sri Lanka. It was a rare occasion to celebrate the dawn of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
But two years ago, on Easter Sunday, 2019, a multi-ethnic Sri Lankan society was shocked by the bombing of several Christian churches by an Islamic militant group that claimed the lives of nearly 270 people.

Rehan Jayawickrema, a Buddhist, says he joins the Muslim fasting fast this year with the intention of removing anti-Muslim attitudes from society that spread after the Easter Sunday attacks.
Meanwhile, some critics of Rehan Jayawickrema accuse him of “running after Muslim votes”. In response, the young politician recalls an idea posted on Twitter by his supporters.
” It is better to win votes by promoting religious harmony than to sow hatred ”

Marianne David, a Catholic journalist, has been observing Ramadan for more than 15 years. She says her intention is to promote communal harmony and solidarity while she spends her Ramadan time to recenter on herself and reflect on things that truly matter, while helping those who can’t afford a meal.


”One of the things that fasting does is to refrain from constantly thinking about food. It also prevents us from eating from time to time due to laziness or anger. At the same time, there is discipline and preparation for the day, ”said Mary Anne.
She says the ritual of Ramadan strengthens her goals and creates a healthy feeling.
“Not having lunch during the day is not a big sacrifice to those who already enjoy some sort of certain life privileges and jobs,” Marianne told the BBC.
”But it’s very difficult for people who do not have enough hands to get a good meal, who work hard and work outdoors in difficult places.
Marianne emphasizes that charity is the most important thing.
”I think it’s important to donate as much as possible while avoiding food. We need to provide food and drink to the underprivileged and enable abd encourage fasting by meeting their needs.”

Unity


Meanwhile, what is Nedin Par saying from another corner of the world? She is also a non-Muslim woman who follows the Ramadan fasting ritual. Nedin, a devout Christian, follows in the footsteps of his friend, a Muslim woman.
“It is an expression of my self-confidence as a follower of Jesus’ faith, and the choice of fasting during the month of Ramadan is an act of support for my dear Muslim friends.”


Nadeem is a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. She is also a business coach as well as a school teacher.
“It has been a while since I started following the Ramadan rituals. Seven years. I strictly follow the Ramadan instructions. Avoid eating before sunrise and eating until sunset.
“My favorite part of my life on this journey of mutual support is being a bridge that builds religious and cultural connections between community and friends.”

A time of reunion


“This is not just a time for discipline or sacrifice, it’s a time to celebrate with loved ones,” said Mary Anne.
“When we go to the house of a friend or other family who invited us at the end of the fasting hours, it’s like a dinner party without alcohol” Marianne explained.
”We try new foods and enjoy ourselves. ”
“Drinking water is the biggest thing we lose during Ramadan. Especially during this hot season. But there is an advantage beyond sacrifice. When I first joined the fast I really missed water. Everything is easy when you focus on a goal. ” she added.

A group of people attending a religious service at a mosque in the city of Colombo wearing masks, maintaining social distance.

Not easy

“If we are always going to satisfy our appetite, we may miss our sacred moments and places of worship. It can automatically make us forget our complete dependence and commitment to God. “
Nedin believes that not taking water and food creates a new vision for his faith.
“We see beyond our own needs. Our needs have been redefined. We experience God ”


However, Weligama Mayor Rehan Jayawickrema said, “Experiencing Ramadan fasting is not an easy task.”
”I get up at four in the morning. Peanuts, yogurt and fruit are eaten for breakfast. After that, there will be no food until 6.30 pm, ”Rehan told the BBC.
The young politician says that this new experiment will give him some freshness at the end of the day. But he also had doubts about whether he could follow that precepts throughout the month of Ramadan.
“I will continue this Ramadan fast as long as I can,” the young Buddhist politician said. But he sympathetically stated that “it is very difficult not to drink a little water.”

Read the original post in Sinhala: https://www.bbc.com/sinhala/sri-lanka-56885896

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