At ten to ten at night on the first day of Ramadan I walked into my house and my youngest son shouted from his bedroom – there are samosas on the table. And there were. Crispy vegetarian samosas – one for each member of the family – and they were still hot.
These samosas, along with all sorts of other delicious meals and snacks, have been arriving in Ramadan most days for the last 10 years or so. They are cooked by my neighbour. In the last few years we have shared much more than food over the fence – we talk about prayer, parenting, how faith affects our daily life and weather, washing and children.
As an interfaith worker, I am invited to join my friends as they break their fast in mosques and restaurants, in community centres and banqueting suites. I go as often as I can and I have learnt from this hospitality to invite my friends to come with me to church at Christmas or Easter.
Last year, here at St Peter’s Hall Green, where I am a curate, we decided to offer hospitality in our church building and we were delighted that about 80 people came together to break the fast – sharing an Iftaar meal. This year we accepted the hospitality of a local community centre and worked with them and a local charity to offer hospitality to some of the people living in Birmingham who are refugees from Syria and to women who do not come from Muslim families, but have converted (reverted) to Islam and often break the fast alone.
Despite torrential rain, some 300 people gathered on Saturday June 11th at Highfield Hall including the Bishop of Birmingham, local councillors and guests from the Amirah Foundation. Everyone enjoyed a three course meal – including cakes made by some of the congregation at St Peter’s and many took the opportunity to make new friends and learn more about one another.
As a church we are learning about the dimensions of both offering and receiving as we explore hospitality together and learn how to build bridges with our neighbours from different faith communities.
For me, the hospitality of being both a guest and host is at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus knew how to be a good guest – I would have loved him to be at my wedding when the wine ran out – and a great host - washing the feet of his tired and dusty guests. God calls us all into fullness of life on earth and offers the promise of eternity in relationship with God and one another. The Holy Spirit built community at Pentecost that broke through cultural and ethnic divides and continues to draw people together both inside and outside the church.
Hospitality turns the stranger into a friend; it opens the door to reconciliation and urges us to see the world through the eyes of another. It might start with a samosa but it could end by opening our hearts, minds and spirits to love our neighbour as our self.
Listen to Jessica talk about her Interfaith work with Saraya Hussain from the Amirah Foundation on Stories Worth Sharing.
This blog first appeared here: cofecomms.tumblr.com/post/145552657612/why-i-welcome-ramadan
Photos by Rabiyah K Latif