It's been a joyful and exciting Ramadan. I've attended two (Big!) iftars and turned down invitations to lots more. I was also filmed on a very hot morning for a Channel 4 'Ramadan Reflection' which aired this week. So Ramadan has been very much on my mind.
I wrote a short article just as Ramadan was starting, to wish UK Muslims 'Ramadan Mubarak' ('happy Ramadan') and to comment on Channel 4's Ramadan Season (both its encouragements and associated controversy). I also asked whether Ramadan might become mainstream. Unfortunately, I can't really answer that question myself as I am inside the Ramadan-zone every day. However, I do know that the minority interest and repeats into which Channel 4 has inserted the Ramadan Reflections have received a massive viewing boost!
With this in mind I wondered how UK Christians might respond to Ramadan and Eid. Could British churches follow the lead of the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury in sending greetings to British Muslims? Apart from our most senior religious leaders, who have been trailblazers and pioneers of inter faith encounter, we have not seen such recognition of Muslim festivals. This is a new approach for a different era. As British Christians and Muslims we are still in the process of getting to know one other, there have been many inter faith initiatives in recent years, great things have been happening in dialogue groups, councils of faith and more recently the 'Near Neighbours' programme. What these have in common with British Ramadan is that they are not yet mainstream: but they could be.
Our partners - Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Churches Together in England and inter faith representatives of the main Christian denominations - responded very positively to the idea of Eidgreetings from the Churches. In producing these greetings the Christian Muslim Forum took on the familiar role of being a catalyst and a broker, through our unique Christian-Muslim space.
This is the message from British churches to the Muslim community:
The Christian churches send greetings of peace and prayers for God's blessing on our Muslim neighbours on the occasion of 'Id ul-Fitr (Eid). We recognise this as a day of good news and celebration - the fast has been completed and the feast begins!
We have been encouraged by two key initiatives this Ramadan - the 'Big Iftar' and Channel 4's Ramadan Season. These have enabled many people to experience the hospitality of UK Muslims in mosques around the country as well as raising awareness positively of the meaning of Ramadan.
As representatives of the main Christian traditions in the UK we assure you of our goodwill towards you, and our commitment to peace and justice in the society that we share together. Aware of the recent attacks on mosques and Muslims, we want to stand with you against any discrimination or violence targeting any community or person because of their faith. Instead, we want to work for more positive interaction between Christians and Muslims, demonstrating the love for God and neighbour to which we are called.
We hope that, alongside our patron the Archbishop of Canterbury's Eid message of reconciliation, that Eid and beyond will bring all of us closer together.