Ramadan began on Thursday this week. Students have begun their annual fasts, waking as early as 4 to eat and pray, then going without food and drink during the school day. They eat again after seven p.m. in the evening. I had a chance to talk with two fasting students during these first days. They didn’t complain at all, but were clearly coping with some fatigue and hunger, trying to do all the usual schoolwork, P.E., etc. Staff is all notified of this, so we can be more aware and sensitive to students during this time, but it’s clearly an extra challenge for them, regardless. Tonight we returned home in a taxi with a driver who has been fasting, as well. He drives part-time at night, and works in a tire factory during the day. For him, fasting is obviously a special challenge; he is tired, but eats only “one bite”, he says, after 7 p.m. It is clear that those who follow Islam closely, have a strong and daily committment to their faith, and the month-long fast during Ramadan demands an extended period of sacrifice from them. In the context of my culture and experience, that is an unusual level of personal and corporeal sacrifice for one’s faith. It has me wondering about the strength and intensity of feelings that divide faiths, and the varying levels of committment that we carry for our own traditions and rituals. Without generalizing, do these intense personal experiences create levels of passion that are not necessarily equal among faith traditions? And do these differences fuel the distrust that divides faiths so broadly at present?
posted Saturday September 2007