With very little notice being taken in Harford County, one of the most widely-observed holidays on earth was celebrated this week: Eid ul-Fitr.
The movable feast was observed on Tuesday as people of the Islamic faith celebrated the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan, whose beginning and end each year also are variable. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during the daylight hours, perform works of service and generally renew their faith.
For most people in Harford County, the observance of Ramadan and its traditions have been rather mysterious. The wars in predominantly Muslim Iraq and Afghanistan have tended to taint American views of Islamic traditions. The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks led by a self-professed Islamic holy warrior also have resulted in long-term damage in the relationship among the adherents to three sibling faiths.
We in the United States are generally well-aware of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. To be a Christian is to recognized that Jesus was an observant Jew and many Christian traditions have their roots in the more ancient Jewish traditions, dating back to the Patriarch Abraham.
Less well-known in these parts is that Islam is a faith that also reveres Abraham, Moses and Jesus, albeit not necessarily in the same way as Jews and Christians. Still, it is reasonable for people of faith to interpret the similarities of three of the world's great faiths as being different versions of the same great revelation.
While such contemplations may seem best left to people of the cloth, the greater truth is it is possible for all people of faith to look beyond their differences to see the similarities that unite all people.
For several years, Ramadan in Harford County has been observed by a local Muslim congregation, the Harford County Education Society Masjid Al Falaah, in a way that reaches out to others who see themselves as following in the path of Abraham. Earlier this month, the Education Society invited the general public to join in an evening breaking of the fast, and many people of other faiths participated.
Similarly, girls and young women from Edgewood's Presbury United Methodist Church and the local Muslim faith community shared a meal – and presumably information about each other's faith traditions – earlier during Ramadan. Such personal gatherings do more to foster goodwill among the faithful than any proclamation from human leadership of a congregation.
Such community outreach among people of faith is a powerful force for good.