08 May Message for the Month of Ramadan 2018
To our Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the World:
As-salaamu ‘alaykum! Peace be upon you!
On behalf of the Special Commission for Dialogue with Islam of the Order of Friars Minor, it gives me great pleasure once again to extend our greetings to you as you begin the observance of Ramadan. In this holy month you truly hunger and thirst for God (swt)as reflected by your rigorous daily fasting. As it is written in the Holy Qur’an, first revealed to you in this month: “Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you might be conscious of God (tattaqūna)…” (al-Baqara 2.183).
By becoming more conscious of God’s eternal presence and becoming more grateful to God the Most Generous (al-Karīm), we may all become more sensitive to the needs of others, particularly those who lack who lack adequate food and access to clean water – and there are many. According to the World Health Organization, more than 800 million people, or 11 per cent of the global population, do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. Nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of five are due to inadequate nutrition. The WHO also reports that some 844 million people lack a basic supply of drinking water, and at least 2 billion people worldwide drink water from contaminated sources that cause disease and death.
The Qur’an reminds us that it is above all God who provides water and food to sustain humanity whom He created:
O humanity! Worship your Lord who created you and those who came before you…who made the earth a resting place for you, and the sky a canopy, and causes water to fall from the sky, thereby producing fruits as sustenance for you. (al-Baqara 2.21-22)
In our time, however, global supplies of food and water have been adversely affected by climate change, war, and unjust economic policies, as well as by waste and apathy. This year we are especially mindful of our brothers and sisters in Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan, where political conflicts and instability threaten the lives of millions of Muslims and Christians with starvation.
In the Christian Scriptures, Jesus (‘alayhi al-salaam – upon him peace!) tells us that every time we give food and drink to the hungry and thirsty, it is as if we have done this for him (Gospel of Matthew25.40). Similarly, the Holy Qur’an describes the righteous whom God will reward in the Hereafter:
They give food, out for the love of Him, to the poor, the orphan and the captive (saying): ‘We feed you for the sake of God. We do not desire any reward or thanks from you.’ (al-Insān 76.8-9)
Just as Jesus rebukes in the strongest terms possible those who lack charity (Matthew 25.41-42), so does the Qur’an accuse humanity of its avarice:
But no! You do not honor the orphans, not do you encourage one another to feed the poor! And you devour inheritance all with greed, and you love wealth with inordinate love! (al-Fajr 89.17-20)
Recalling these words, throughout the centuries rulers of Muslim lands, as well as their wives and daughters, established soup kitchens next to mosques, and built public drinking fountains so that the hungry and thirsty might be nourished. In this same spirit, Franciscan men and women throughout the world continue to be renown for their direct service to the poor, especially by feeding the hungry regardless of religion.
Ramadan is particularly a month when you feed the hungry at saḥūr (sehri) and‘Ifṭār,and give alms (zakah) to the poor. These acts of righteousness (ṣaliḥāt) inspire us to do likewise.During this month and throughout the year, let us pray that even as we hunger and thirst for the Living God (Allāh al-Ḥayy)we might be particularly attentive to those in the world who hunger and thirst for food and drink. Let us commit ourselves to working with one another to feed the hungry in the communities and countries we share as brothers and sisters, and to eliminating the political, economic and environmental causes of hunger in the world. As God is the Most Generous (al-Karīm), let us be generous with all with whom we share the one breath of God.
Together with Franciscan friars around the world, we wish you a most blessed Ramadan. Ramadan Mubarak! Ramadan Kareem!
Michael D. Calabria, OFM,
Special Assistant for Dialogue with Islam
Members of the Commission for Dialogue with Islam:
Manuel Corullón, OFM
Ferdinand Mercado, OFM
Jamil Albert, OFM