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On June 6th the season of Ramadan begins for our Muslim neighbors. From then until July 5th the members of that faith community will fast daily from dawn until sunset, allowing the discipline of this month-long fast to increase their awareness of human dependence on God and the particular needs of those who are poor. During Ramadan, members of the Muslim community break their daily fast with an evening meal called iftar.
Within the borders of the Saint Paul Area Synod, our many communities include Muslim neighbors. This means that many of our near neighbors, coworkers, fellow students and some family members will be honoring the faith practices of Ramadan. Because we are living in a time of misunderstanding and hostile messages about outsiders and persons of other backgrounds and faith traditions, the Lutheran community has an opportunity to honor our Muslim neighbors differently in the coming days.
A growing number of congregations have used the study booklet, My Neighbor Is Muslim, published by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, to increase awareness of the Muslim faith. This seven-part study is available as a free download atwww.lssmn.org. A study guide for youth, Loving Our Muslim Neighbors, is also available. The synod staff has been using this as part of our weekly devotions and have appreciated the straight forward tone of the study as well as the discussion questions.
The Minnesota Council of Churches, a synod partner, is coordinating a program of evening open houses, hosted by local Islamic Centers and mosques, called Taking Heart Ramadan Iftars, to introduce the wider community to the worship spaces and practices of the Muslim community. Sign-up information for these iftar dinners can be found at www.mnchurches.org. I have attended these in the past and been very moved by the hospitality of the Muslim faith community. I encourage you to attend one this year.
The Minnesota Council of Churches is also making available lawn signs, which read “To our Muslim neighbors -- Blessed Ramadan” for congregations or individuals, who wish to extend greetings to the Muslim community in that public way. Details for purchasing such a lawn sign are noted on www.mnchurches.org.
Last month at the Synod Assembly we passed a resolution inviting all congregations and members to walk with respect and learn from the Muslim community, to seek ways to learn about the Islamic faith, and to pray for stronger relationships between Christians and Muslims. Making efforts to know and understand our neighbors, looking out for their well being and seeing them as gifted members of the human family is our Lutheran way. During Ramadan, I encourage you to find ways to express that regard for the Muslim community in Minnesota.
Yours in God’s service,
Bishop Patricia Lull