In several neighborhoods of Minnesota and Northwest Washington, Lutherans this week placed outside their homes, and on church lawns, signs wishing Muslim neighbors a blessed Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During this time, Muslims fast from sunrise to learn compassion, self-restraint and generosity. This year Ramadan is from June 5 to July 5.
In Minnesota, the effort was led by the Minnesota Council of Churches. Members of 17 area congregations, including ELCA, were given some 1,800 signs to put up in their yards. Jerad Morey, program and communications director for the council said, “In Minnesota, there has been a significant amount of Islamophobia, and yet that is not who we are in Minnesota. We are a welcoming, caring, respectful community.”
The signs are a public gesture of goodwill, Morey added, at a time when Muslim-Americans need a gesture of goodwill.
Patricia Lull, bishop of the ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod, issued a “pastoral message” to Muslim neighbors on the synod’s Facebook page on Monday:
“Within the borders of the Saint Paul Area Synod, our many communities include Muslim neighbors. This means that many of our near neighbors, coworkers, fellow students and some family members will be honoring the faith practices of Ramadan. Because we are living in a time of misunderstanding and hostile messages about outsiders and persons of other backgrounds and faith traditions, the Lutheran community has an opportunity to honor our Muslim neighbors differently in the coming days.”
The Northwest Synod of Washington posted to its Facebook page Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s opinion piece in the Redmond Reporter, which outlines both the complications and beauty of the Ramadan journey. She writes about helping her daughter, Randa, explain the family’s traditions to classmates at school. For children, Tuffaha writes, “Ramadan comes with its own delicacies, to sate and to quench after a day of fasting. And for our children, it comes with its own deocrations, stories, trinkets and delights.”
Tuffaha’s editorial ends with her experience of driving through her Redmond neighborhood and noticing signs posted on Faith Lutheran Church’s readerboard:
Nestled among pines and blooming dogwoods, she sees the words “Ramadan Mabarak to our Muslim Neighbors.”
“I am amazed at how much joy this brought to my heart, a grownup, too old to need holiday lights and trinkets, I thought. Maybe the intensity of this election year, and the variety of hatreds it has unearthed, Maybe it’s the way it has us all walked on eggshells, wondering what our neighbors really think, how we see each other or don’t actually see each other at all.
“The greetings is a lovely gesture, an acknowledgement of neighbors for whom the days are altered and a celebration is taking place, but it is so much more. It speaks to the child in me, who wants to drive by again and again in the joy and festivity of the lights.
“Thank you to the community of Faith Lutheran for this thoughtful and unexpected gift, and this particular year, for lighting the darkness.”
Bob Lewis, pastor of Faith Lutheran, said a synod resolution was the push to make this sort of public welcome. Redmond is also a community with a 50 percent other-than-Anglo population—many Muslims and a large mosque in town, he adding.
“Reaction has all been very positive,” he said.