Celebrating an unusual Ramadan - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Three mothers and their children live together in this small house.

Here in Mombasa, Kenya, the majority of the people are Muslim, followed by Christians. Once a year Muslims all over the world participate in Ramadan, a month of intense prayer and dawn-to-dusk fasting intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to be reminded of the suffering of those less fortunate. Similar to our Lenten season, people donate to charities and feed the hungry.

Food to be packed for distribution to poor families

Eid al-Fitr is the festival when Ramadan comes to an end, also known as “breaking the fast.” Many celebrate it by slaughtering a domestic animal (cow, goat or camel) as a symbol of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son. This year we celebrated the feast on May 25.

My closest friends here are Muslims, so in the same manner as last year I wanted to participate alongside them in some of their traditions. But unlike last year, we are contending with coronavirus, curfews, travel restrictions and a greater lack of financial resources. Being able to sit on the floor eating traditional foods with the neighbors or going to the mosque was not an option.

So this year Abdalla and I began the first week of Ramadan engaged in a seven-day mostly silent retreat, focused on developing and strengthening our ordinary lives in a God-centered practice. We broke our daily fast a bit early to enable him to arrive back at his home before the 7 p.m. curfew. The next three weeks Abdalla fasted and mostly stayed at home praying, as I continued with my ordinary life.

During the final week of Ramadan, we prepared for Eid. Our plan was to “feed the hungry” by supplying 50 neighborhood families with food so they could celebrate the holiday too.

This year many people were financially unable to celebrate with the traditional good meal, so Abdalla asked if we could slaughter a goat to share a portion with each of the 50 families. The day before our celebration, I purchased a goat, and it was prayed over, slaughtered, butchered and packaged in my backyard by Abdalla, Suleman, Ramadhan and Julius.

We filled 50 bags with maize flour, rice, cooking oil, green grams, soap, goat meat and sweets. With the assistance of my friend and village elder Musa and eight local youth, we walked the mud-filled narrow paths and streams of sewage to deliver the bags to families in my neighboring small informal settlement. Many of the residents are really struggling through this time—they have little food, and rents are unpaid. They were so grateful as were all of us for being able to provide an unexpected moment of joy.

We returned to enjoy a delicious Eid feast of goat stew and rice. I feel blessed to be able to join with the youth “in loving your neighbor as yourself.” And I hope that by including them in this sharing, we were together planting seeds for a better world.

Eid mubarak — Blessed celebration!



Mike Garr
Mike Garr is a catering instructor at Marianist Technical Institute in Mombasa, Kenya.