Ramadan in the Midst of War

Monsignor Akasheh Khaled Comments on Meaning of Muslim Holy Month

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ROME, NOV. 18, 2001 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, has begun in the midst of war.

Here, Monsignor Akasheh Khaled explains how Muslims live this special time. The 47-year-old native of Jordan has been secretary of the Vatican Commission for Relations with Muslims for the past seven years.

–Q: Do you think this will be a special Ramadan?

–Monsignor Khaled: Certainly, a religious event is always placed in the context in which one is living. However, at the same time, it recalls the transcendence of God, who is in history but also beyond events.

–Q: In your opinion, what is the meaning of this Ramadan that is marked by the war in Afghanistan and the world crisis caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks attributed to Muslim fundamentalists?

–Monsignor Khaled: The majority of both Christians as well as Muslims have not seen in the events of the last two months either as a religious war or a clash of civilizations. This is positive; I would say it is one of the fruits of the tragedy.

Therefore, to fast at this time reinforces the idea that religion is above all a personal act of relation with God. What is more, Muslims conceive their hard penance precisely as an act of obedience to Allah and, in this circumstance, it is still more necessary to underline that we all need to obey God, his will for the good of every one.

–Q: This could be an opportunity for Christians to associate themselves to the sincere spiritual attitude of believers of Islam.

–Monsignor Khaled: Indeed, despite the difficult moment, to observe that Muslims want to conform to God through a courageous act like fasting, it is also exemplary for our religiosity.

Ramadan puts spiritual values in the place of honor, [which is] also valuable for us: reading of sacred texts, prayers, almsgiving, special remembrance of God, greater missionary activity.

We must witness to one another. Moreover, as solidarity with the needy — at the end of the month, alms are given, which seal the break in fasting — is among the meritorious works of Ramadan, this could be the appropriate moment for Christians to go out to meet the needs of the Afghan people and the refugees with greater charitable commitment.

–Q: What does this special Ramadan mean to Muslims?

–Monsignor Khaled: That the Islamic religion is not — as some wish to represent it — a faith of terror, violence and war, but that it has other spiritual dimensions, which are really able to fill a person´s heart.

I personally recall Muslim believers who fasted in July and August, without leaving their work on the land. This edified me very much.

–Q: Perhaps it would have been better to take advantage of the occasion of Ramadan to proclaim a sort of “truce of God”?

–Monsignor Khaled: The same question was recently addressed to the King of Jordan, who replied: We cannot always do what we would like. I certainly don´t want to defend the war, but perhaps its continuation is necessary to guarantee the security of people in various parts of the world, especially those scourged by terrorism.

–Q: Shortly we Christians will also begin Advent and we certainly would like, at least for Christmas, that there be no fighting.

–Monsignor Khaled: I´m not sure this will happen. However, if we reflect on the value of Christmas and peace, perhaps we might begin to think of real peace, based on justice for all, everywhere, and wonder how it can be built.

In my opinion, a soldier also, even when obliged in certain circumstances to fight, must in fact have the blessedness of peace as his principal objective.

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