Many newcomers and refugees in our urban centres now are from Muslim nations: in 2021, 1 in 5 newcomers to Canada identified as Muslim*.
Have you ever wondered how to reach out to your Muslim neighbours?
As Ramadan begins, Wendy, our staff in Vancouver shares ideas she has lived out as she has been journeying with the Syrian community in the Downtown Eastside. She gained these through years of listening, observing and asking our Muslim neighbours how they would feel seen, heard and honoured in our community.
We’ve also invited Yasmeen, a mother and local leader in the Syrian community, to share her thoughts on serving the Muslim community during Ramadan!
Ramadan is the holy month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown and deepen their practices of prayer, generosity and devotion to God. This year, it runs through the evening of March 22-April 20 - overlapping with the Lenten season.
Our staff in both Vancouver and Saskatoon have connected with many Muslim newcomers to the Downtown Eastside and Westside respectively over the years, engaging in leadership development and actions toward community transformation together. Ramadan is a great opportunity for Christians to live out Jesus’ invitation to be a peacemaker by welcoming the stranger, in a culturally-contextualized way.
1. Wish folks "Ramadan Mubarak or "Ramadan Kareem"
Take initiative to greet your Muslim neighbours, friends and co-workers, which means "blessed Ramadan" and "generous Ramadan” respectively.
“I feel respected and welcomed when people wish us ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ and learn about this important time for us. It feels good to know that others want to get to know us and our cultural practices.“ - Yasmeen
2. Join an 'iftar', the daily break-fast meal at sundown
“During Ramadan, we fast during the day and break our fast with the iftar meal at sunset with family and friends. We wake up before sunrise to have suhoor - a meal to nourish us for the long fast ahead during the day, and we also pray and read the Qur’an. Our schedules are turned upside down - it would be good for our neighbours to know why we are cooking in the middle of the night!” - Yasmeen
During Ramadan we regularly break fast with neighbours, an opportunity for deepening relationship and extending honour by receiving hospitality.
Do you have Muslim neighbours or friends you want to deepen relationship with? Ask if there might be a good time for you to gather with them for iftar!
3. Gift your Muslim friends a box of dates
Dates are an accessible and culturally appropriate gift, as each iftar begins with a glass of water and eating dates. You can also bless your friends with a meal or sweets from your culture - just make sure it's halal!
4. Make connections with a mosque nearby
Most mosques host community iftar every day - drop by and see if you join in and make some connections! Perhaps a group from your church can attend together from a posture of curiosity and bridge-building between faith communities. Alternatively, drop off bottled water and dates as a thoughtful gift to share during iftar.
5. Grow in awareness of and speak up against Islamophobia
Whether subtle or direct, Islamophobia is still pervasive in Canadian communities, media and systems. Over 2 in 5 Canadians have a negative view of Islam**.
Listen to your Muslim friends' experiences and consider how you can lend your voice to speak up against discrimination, microaggressions and false narratives.
“[Regarding injustice in our communities] We have to do something, if we don’t do anything, nothing will change. Here, the system is not like back home. Here, maybe if we do something together, speak up and try, those with power will do something.” - Yasmeen
6. Offer a thoughtful gesture on Eid
Eid-al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, one of the two official holidays celebrated in Islam - think of its significance as Christmas! Help your Muslim neighbour feel seen and honoured in their celebrations through a kind gesture - perhaps a card, sweets or a gift.
For Wendy, Eid always means joining in on hosting a candy crawl for kids in the community and visiting neighbours over lots of sweets and coffee! Ask if there are celebrations you can join in, or drop by for a visit during this 3-day festival.
“Jesus does not say make peace between Christians, but make peace. He doesn't say establish peace by making them Christians, but make peace. Why? Becuase peacemaking can be evangelistic. Through our efforts to bring peace we show the world the kind of king and kingdom we represent.” - Esau McCauley, Reading While Black
These small acts of care have made way for mutual transformation and life-giving friendships across cultures and faith. In turn, these relationships have laid the foundation for action towards community transformation and proclamation of the good news contextually, such as:
a women’s tea to build trust between neighbours in family housing projects
grassroots entrepreneurship empowering women with refugee backgrounds
advocacy for the needs of Muslim students in Vancouver’s local schools
We hope that these ideas will support your journey as a peacemaker and sharing of the good news with Muslim neighbours in your cities and communities. Which of these 6 practical ways of making peace with your Muslim neighbours would you like to try out?
If you are curious to learn more about peacemaking alongside Muslims, please connect with Servant Partners staff Wendy firstname.lastname@example.org who journeys with the Syrian newcomer community in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. You can donate towards this work of community transformation here.