In Connecticut, an interfaith celebration of Ramadan


Photo: Keila Torres Ocasio

This will certainly be of interest to Bridgeport’s new bishop. 

Details: 

It was like those cartoon moments when a light bulb appears to symbolize the spark of a new idea.

A staffer at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, accepting the synagogue’s correspondence from a mail carrier, asked the man if he wanted water. But on that scorching hot day the carrier, a Muslim, said no.

The 30-day period of Ramadan had begun, and he was fasting. The staffer was surprised because she was doing so as well — it was Tisha B’Av, or the Ninth of Av, an annual day of fasting in Judaism.

“It was like this connection,” said Rabbi Daniel Victor, of Rodeph Sholom. “Hopefully, you get the same type of spark when you set the stage for (interfaith) dialogue.”

It was with that goal that nearly 100 Jews, Christians and Muslims gathered Sunday on McLevy Greendowntown for an interfaith celebration and meal in observance of Ramadan.

During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims don’t eat, drink or have sex between dawn and sunset.

“The idea is, if you can control your natural urges, like water, food and a sexual life, then other urges you can control,” said Imam Nasif Muhammad, of the Al Aziz Islamic Center on Fairfield Avenue.

Ridding oneself of the physical makes room for the spiritual, Victor added, noting that the reasons for fasting are the same in all religions.

Coming together to celebrate other faiths’ religious observances every few months has been helping the Bridgeport community build bridges — and break down barriers and prejudices — for decades, said the Rev. Sara Smith, of the United Congregational Church.

“We’re creating a little bit of a peace for two hours in the center of Bridgeport,” she said. “We’re killing each other in the name of God, but all faiths say `love each other.’ People say, `What about your faith?’ Well my faith is fine. We don’t try to change each other or convince each other here.”

Guest speaker Imam Kashif Abdul-Karim, of the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford, noted that prophets of all faiths fasted and even former U.S. presidents, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, noted the importance of fasting.

The event was organized by the Greater Bridgeport Tent of Abraham, a gathering of religious leaders established about a decade ago.

The group was named for the prophet who links the three faiths — Islam, Judaism and Christianity — that started it.

“Abraham was known for his welcoming of guests,” Victor said.

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