Lets all get along: The dome of the St Mark Church in Heliopolis, Egypt. (Photo: Andrew A. Shenouda via https://www.flickr.com/photos/2007828/)
Nothing says “I accept you for who you are” like sharing a meal together. Few things even come close. As the late American labour leader Cesar Chavez observed not so long ago, “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” Indeed. Breaking bread together in many cultures is considered a religious experience, hence the importance put on it in many religious texts.
Congregants of the Kasr el-dobara evangelical church in Cairo, Egypt certainly know this to be true and every year they have a unique way of reminding their community and the world about it. During the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims across the world fast to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief, the congregants of the church have a tradition of offering iftar (breaking the fast) meals to their Muslim neighbours.
A difficult moment for Muslim-Christian relations
Though the church has kept up the tradition for many years, this year’s donation of meals during iftar happened at a particularly difficult moment for Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt. In Minya, a city about 245 kilometers from Cairo, violent clashes have been going on between Muslims and Coptic Christians resulting in one women being stripped, beaten and dragged through the streets after her son was suspected of having a romantic liaison with a Muslim woman.
The incident shocked the nation and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has pledged that the perpetrators will be brought to book. But despite these tensions, members of the Kasr el-dobara evangelical church decided to hold the traditional charitable iftar meal with the hope of reminding everyone of the importance of unity between members of the two faiths. From the reactions on social media, they seem to have struck just the right note.
Breaking bread together in many cultures is considered a religious experience
Not a one-off
It’s important to stress that for the members of the Kasr el-dobara evangelical church, the largestChristian church in the Middle East, this was not a one-off affair. The church has been faithfully keeping up the tradition of offering iftar meals to their Muslims neighbours for years. The social media reactions to these gestures in past years is as a good a record as any of their generosity and open-mindedness.
Long may the tradition continue.