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Christians Urged to Honor Ramadan

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Christians are being urged to honor Ramadan through praying, fasting and calling for a halt to bombing in Afghanistan. Ramadan is a Muslim holy month of fasting that begins Friday, Nov. 16 and ends Dec. 17.

“I’m going to fast sometime during Ramadan,” wrote Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., in a column for Beliefnet.com. “My plan is to go without food a day, while I also spend some time praying.”
Sojourners magazine recently called upon Americans and other nations to e-mail President Bush with a message to “honor the Muslim holy days of Ramadan,” urging the administration to halt the bombing of Afghanistan and carry on with humanitarian operations.
Having been “pretty lax [about] more rigorous practices” of his own Christian tradition, Mouw wrote he will experiment with a time of fasting and prayer during Ramadan. He has never fasted for religious reasons.
“I hope other Christians will join me. And I hope they will do so precisely because of Ramadan,” he wrote. “We don’t have to sink into a lowest-common-denominator relativism to take seriously the fact that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are all religions that are descended–each in its own unique way, to be sure–from the faith of Abraham.”
Mouw said he takes Genesis 17:18-21 “very seriously.” The passage describes God’s promise of blessing upon all of Abraham’s descendants, the offspring of Ishmael as well as those of Isaac.
Evangelicals have long ignored fasting, wrote Mouw, but the mood has begun to change recently with Richard Foster’s bestseller, “Celebration of Discipline.”
Significant interest in fasting has developed among Baptists in recent years, making it a popular practice “with many contemporary Baptists focused on personal renewal,” Doug Weaver, professor of Christianity at Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Ga., wrote in a bcE*byte article earlier this month.
Historically, Baptists have placed little emphasis on fasting, which is rarely mentioned by confessions of faith, Weaver wrote. “The challenge remains to translate an intense individual spirituality into transformed relationships and social justice.”
Mouw wrote, “My theology tells me that [Muslims] are created in the image of God of the Bible. To desecrate that image is to insult the God whom I worship. During my time of fasting and prayer, I will be praying for the physical and spiritual well-being of my Muslim neighbors.”
Sojourners summed up the issues facing Christians worldwide: “We are faced with a stark strategic and moral choice: Do we continue to bomb Afghanistan this winter while a third of its people starve, or do we assist a massive humanitarian relief effort while still pursuing the terrorists?”
The Sojourners e-mail campaign to “Halt the Bombing, Feed the People, and Honor Ramadan … will send a clear message to Muslims around the world that Islam is not an enemy of the West,” read the statement.
Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.