Tuesday, 2 August 2011


The kids are off school, and it's hot. The entire month of August holds a promises of parks, visits to an art gallery, theme parks and the city of London; of calming the pace so we aren't rushing to dance lessons or hastening out of the house for school; of eating together at lunchtime instead of me hurriedly packing lunchboxes and filling water bottles before we leave in the morning. At the moment I am embracing the rest - in fact today, the girls are having an entire day free from scheduled jobs and activities, and staying in their pyjamas for as long as they want (I'm already dressed and showered of course; I won't stay in pyjamas for long, especially when it's hot!).

Although we regularly attend our home Church during termtime, and at Christmas and Easter, the summer holidays also allow us to go church-hopping; as long as I fit in Holy Communion, it gives us a bit of leeway to try something different, or watch VeggieTales - face it there is no shortage of religious education in this house! Next weekend we are visiting some friends at our local Methodist church, and then later on in the month there is the opportunity for sung Eucharist or Evensong at the oldest church in our city. That's my/our Christian education for the holidays!

But we are also re-learning about Islam, another of the Abrahamic religions, because the entire month of August is the holy month of Ramadam for Muslims, prior to the celebration of Eid-Al-Fitr. It's probably doing Ramadam (and Christianity) a disservice, but I have compared Ramadan/Eid to Lent/Easter or Advent/Christmas to simplify things for the girls, who do learn about other faiths at their Church of England school, but don't come into direct contact with other Muslims. The period of self-denial, giving something up, trying to get closer to God and thinking more about giving to others is something that they can identify with, even if their education is currently through children's books.

Although Christians usually respect the Jewish faith (and certainly the Torah) despite their refusal to recognise Jesus as Messiah, skewed interpretations of Islam, particularly through the perpretation of terrorism in recent years, have caused us to be fearful of those who speak of Allah, and wary of their traditions. Yet, it was a friend's devotion to Islam, and her devoutness in following cultural and religious rules coupled with an intellect and a desire to embrace aspects of the Western world, that helped further my realisation of opening up to believe in God. The friendship of Muslim girls from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, who were prepared to take me on my own terms and accept me, British and godless, as a person, still resonates with me. So, along with learning about different aspects of Christianity, this summer we are reminding ourselves that Muslim children will be fasting; we will be teaching ourselves about Islamic countries and their traditional foods, and recognising the importance of Ramadan to others, as well as worshipping Jesus Christ ourselves.

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