Virtual Interfaith Iftar

Four faith leaders joined more than 500 people in an online iftar organised by the Naz Legacy Foundation, to mark the end of a day of fasting during Ramadan on Wednesday (6th May).

The foundation has organised interfaith iftars for five years in iconic venues such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London, propelled by young people aged 18-30. Usually, iftar is observed in community groups or the mosque, but because of coronavirus, this year it had to be virtual.

Ramadan  is a holy month when Muslims cannot eat and drink from dawn till dusk.  Within the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan is the fourth pillar, the month in which the Quran was revealed. It is a time of mercy, forgiveness and introspection, where Muslims retreat inwards to reflect on their actions.

The Chief Rabbi Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said in a record message:
“I’ve always been deeply impressed by the concept of the iftar through which our Muslim friends reach out and connect with so many people, taking hold of the iftar opportunity to promote and champion the type of values which can enhance our society. In the lead up to the coronavirus we witnessed such a worrying increase of hate speech and hate crime right across the world. And now that we are in the midst of this crisis, we are seeing an impressive level of unity – in our communities, on the street, in our towns and cities, national and global unity, as all of us confront the hidden enemy together. It is so crucially important that we take this sense of unity and empower it to exist well beyond Covid19.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales:
“To me what is so important is that we learn to live our faith more fully in this time of testing. We have to reach down to the very roots of what we believe and put that into practice. When our social, world is reduced, our inner world becomes so much bigger and within our hearts are demons as well as angels, and each of us  has a struggle in these testing times,  and the only answer is in the mystery of God and in the presence of God and understanding our life as a gift.

“It is a time of testing but it can be a time of great growth in faith….. It’s refreshing within us different ways of expressing the life of the church. We learn from the strong Jewish tradition that the home is the place of prayer, the sanctuary, and in our tradition we have to livestream mass every day so that people can at least have a visual and virtual presence …  and then of course there is neighbourhood work because people are getting lonely.”

Bishop of London Sarah Mullaly:
“As a society we had begun to think that we were in control and what our present situation shows is that we aren’t and probably never were. So it underlines our dependence on each other. We are so much more reliant on each other now and my hope is that some of those lessons will stick beyond this storm and will shape our society beyond Covid 19.  .. there’s no doubt that coming out of this, issues such as food poverty and unemployment will have grown. ..it may be that we collaborate even more, so that we work across our faith boundaries to support our communities, because those that are least able to cope with covid19 are those which will be most affected’”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby:
“This is a Ramadan like no other in history. In the same way we had an Easter like no other, and the Jewish community had a Passover like no other. In each of them we have had to avoid the very thing that the season or festival is about – which is being together.  We are having to learn that we can worship at home, we are relearning that sense of faith in the home which is so essential in all our faiths. It doesn’t mean we are not outward looking, so many mosques are feeding people, so many churches, synagogues are reaching out to feed people. What a wonderful gift the faith communities are to this country. They reach out with the overflowing love of God and compassion for the poor.”

Praising Muslims in the NHS and front-line services, he said: “There seems to be a disproportionate loss of life among those of black and minority ethnic background in this pandemic in this country and in the NHS we’ve seen some wonderful heroic people losing their lives. Let that never be forgotten.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who was a pupil at the school where Naz Bouhari was headteacher, was asked wat e ad learned from Ramadan during coronavirus:
“Lockdown has been really hard for me. I thrive with other people.  I’m a team player and it’s been tough. My mental health has suffered. I’ve tried to do things deliberately to stay positive. My daily exercise is necessary for me to get out. And as brilliant as the phone and forms of technology are, it doesn’t replace being around people. I’ve missed not seeing my mum, not seeing my brothers and my sister and I find it hard. This is the hardest Ramadan I’ve ever had… I am optimistic about the future. We’ve got record numbers people taking part in this virtual iftar… we have more in common than divides us.”

Imam Mohammed Mahmoud, who calmed a crowd after a terrorist attack near Finsbury Park mosque:
“How our society responds to our crisis today will depend on us – the decision taken by each of us to reach out to someone different, to start an initiative to help the vulnerable, to show our solidarity with the marginalised. These will define whether this crisis is a moment for greater unity, or God forbid, division. Seeing the way communities have come together online with these wonderful virtual iftars makes me very optimistic.”