At 8:41 p.m., the exact time of sundown on May 30, 2019, the imam turned to face the east and issued the call to prayer. Dates and water were passed out to break the daily Ramadan fast.
It was all very traditional—except that these prayers took place in an Anglican church.
The scene unfolded before a special Iftar dinner held at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Kingston, Ont.
“It was beautiful,” says Bishop of the diocese of Ontario Michael Oulton. “We were holding our Ascension Day service in the cathedral and the Islamic folk were holding their prayers in the library of the cathedral.”
Around 40 Anglicans and members of the Islamic community gathered for an Iftar, the evening meal with which the daily Ramadan fast is broken, in support of charity Give 30 Kingston.
The meal raised about $465, according to Oulton.
Give 30 is an organization active in Canada, the United States and Australia. During the 30 days of Ramadan, Give 30 encourages “everyone, regardless of faith,” to donate to food banks and food security initiatives, according to its website. For those fasting for Ramadan, Give 30 encourages adding up the amount of money that would be spent on lunch and coffee and donating it.
The campaign partners with local organizations to keep donated money in the community. Proceeds from the dinner at St. George’s will go to the Partners in Mission Food Bank in Kingston.
Before the meal, imams from the community spoke about Give 30 and explained what Ramadan—the Islamic time of prayer and fasting from sun-up to sundown that takes place over 30 days each year—is all about. After evening prayers, members of the Queen’s University Muslim Student Association served the Iftar meal.
“Was it ever good,” says Oulton. “It was beautiful, spicy [food]—and lots of it.”
The meal was an “Iftar potluck,” says Imam Michael Taylor, regional chaplain for Correctional Service Canada and co-lead of Give 30 Kingston.
Taylor contacted Oulton about the possibility of St. George’s hosting an Iftar dinner after seeing news of an interfaith Iftar at St. James’s Church in London, UK. “I thought, why not do that here?”
He reached out to donors who usually provide Iftar meals for the Queen’s University students, he says, who made bountiful contributions of biryani, curries and other traditional foods.
Give 30 offers an important opportunity to help others in need, says Taylor. There is a saying in Islam, he says, that “he is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbour to his side goes hungry.” So far this year, Give 30 Kingston has raised upwards of $6,000 and is hoping to meet a goal of $10,000 by the campaign’s end in August.
For Oulton, the meal was also an opportunity for an interfaith gathering about celebration instead of solidarity in the wake of tragedy.
“We have gathered as an interfaith community in Kingston so many times after sad events. You know: vigil after vigil, after vigil, after vigil, after vigil. And we keep saying, we have to start gathering for times of celebration. We have to get to know one another.” This type of meeting is a way to get to know each other and build a sense of community and common ground, Oulton says. “It was wonderful. And we’re calling it the ‘first annual,’” he adds.
Attendees were seated in small tables of about six people, creating opportunity to mingle and engage in conversation, ask questions and learn about each others’ faiths. “What I really enjoyed was looking around the room—I was sitting with the imams, we were chatting away, and we were looking around at the people engaged in conversation,” says Oulton. He says feedback from members of the cathedral was positive and they look forward to holding the event again next year.
Ramadan took place May 6-June 3 in 2019. The 2019 Give 30 campaign runs until August 31. Those looking to donate to Give 30 can do so at give30.ca/donate.