Muslim, Christian girls join for interfaith iftar

Muslim and Christian youth filled the room at the McFaul Activities Center on July 11 to learn about each other and enjoy iftar together.

Iftar is the Arabic word for the meal eaten after Muslims break their fast during Ramadan, a month in which Muslims refrain from food and drink from dawn to dusk. Girls from Edgewood's Presbury United Methodist Church joined the Muslim girls youth group of Harford County, Project Iman, to share a meal and participate in activities.

The month of Ramadan is met with Muslims all over the world fasting, praying and attempting to increase their faith through acts such as worship, service and being one with their community. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar in which Muslims believe that their holy book, the Qur'an, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This holy month displays the unity and charity of the Muslim community and allows for people of different faiths to experience the Islamic holiday, whether it's through service activities or interfaith iftars.

"It's very important to teach our children about all religions. It enables them to better understand one another and live as a strong community," Nisat Bhatti founder of Project Iman said.

Project Iman is composed of a variety of young Muslim girls, ranging from elementary to college students. The group meets monthly to talk about faith, socialize with friends and conduct activities such as charity projects and field trips, living up to the group's motto: "Project Iman: Where faith and community become one."

More than 30 girls were at the iftar hosted by Project Iman, interacting and learning new things. The event started with a welcoming talk followed by an icebreaker activity. After getting to know each other, the girls completed a craft in which they wrote their names in Arabic, the language of the Qur'an, and decorated it with frames and stickers. Shortly afterward, it was time to break fast. Opening the fast with a date and light ethnic refreshments, the Project Iman girls prayed while the guests quietly observed.

"Our Muslim sisters prayed as we sat back in an attitude of prayer. Our girls from Presbury were quiet. I didn't see suspicion or self-righteousness or anything our culture teaches us about how Christians should see Muslims; instead, I only saw wonder and openness," Presbury's pastor, Shannon Sullivan, said as she reflected on this moment.

After prayer, the girls dived into dinner while mingling around with everyone.

"It was wonderful to spend the evening with Pastor Shannon and the girls. We got to learn so much from one another as well as enjoyed each other's company," Bhatti said.

Sullivan readily agreed: "From the moment we walked in the door, we were welcomed unconditionally. When I looked at them, I thought, what a beautiful place it would be if we could all approach one another with such hospitality and wonder, regardless of our religion, race, political affiliation or whatever else separates us. My prayer is that we may partner again soon with Project Iman."

This year Ramadan started on June 29 and was predicted to end July 29. The end of the month is celebrated with the Islamic holiday, Eid ul-Fitr, to commemorate the achievements of Ramadan and attempt to continue with the lifestyle adapted during Ramadan. The day is celebrated by getting dressed up, joining the community in Eid prayer, visiting family and friends and enjoying a feast.

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