An Immersive Introduction to Ramadan

A reflection of the 2019 Community Iftar hosted by the United Muslim Sisters of Latrobe Valley

Carmel and John, Cairo, 2006 Carmel and her son Archie, with UMSLV Committee Member Hina Fasal at the 2019 Community Iftar
Carmel’s daughter Matilda onstage with her friends at the 2019 Community Iftar .

In 2019, our family were invited to attend the UMSLV Community Iftar held in Churchill, Gippsland. Following the event I was invited to write a reflection for the UMSLV newsletter. As Muslim Communitites across the world enter into Ramadan 2020, I thought I would share my reflections more broadly in acknowledgment of this important period.

Our family had a wonderful night immersing in our local Muslim community, sharing a delicious feast and learning about Ramadan. This was such an amazing learning experience for us and our kids, exploring their individual feelings and thoughts in a safe and supported way.

What was the most significant take away?

My ability to connect with the story of Ramadan and Iftar stirring up childhood memories such as:

  • the Catholic period of Lent – ‘giving up’ certain foods over an extended period in the lead up to Easter and the importance of reflection and self-improvement;
  • food rituals of breaking-fast associated with Jewish practice of Passover; and
  • hearing my cousin read from the Torah at his bar mitzvah.

What surprised me?

I was surprised that we were welcomed to sit as a family unit, despite the general practice of male and female separation. We were visibly uncertain initially, however UMSLV community demonstrated genuine care and reassurance to our family throughout the evening to bring comfort to the experience.

I was also surprised to see how easily my younger children joined in play and celebration with the other children, whilst my eldest son was visibly uncertain and worried at the new environment. We nurtured our son’s discomfort and discussed options for him to consider how he could approach the night. We also used the experience to discuss how it may be for some of his friends at school, particularly newly arrived Australians, and encouraged him to think about how he could support those friends back in the school environment. We were extremely proud to see him slowly connect with kids over the night, around the pool table, and his joy listening to his school friend on stage.

Why these events matter to me?

I have always held a strong curiosity for new cultural experiences and theological exploration. This was instilled in me from a young age, and I still remember the classes at my Catholic High School where we were encouraged to develop appreciation for diversity of faith. Whilst our family are not currently part of any religious communities, we are a values-based family with a strong focus on social justice and I consider the opportunity for intercultural and interfaith immersion a critical aspect of supporting our children in their development as curious, respectful, inclusive, informed and welcoming global citizens.

My background?

I am second generation Australian and my family heritage spans Catholic and Jewish faith from United Kingdom, Poland and Belarus. I grew up amongst multicultural communities in Melbourne and have a thirst for travel. I moved to Gippsland 15 years ago as a young professional, before travelling the world and returning to Gippsland. I now live in Warragul with my husband John and three school aged children, Angus, Archie and Matilda, all Gippsland born. We have been privileged to travel to many places across Australia and abroad and are grateful for the opportunity to diversify our cultural and interfaith immersion locally.

Ramadan and COVID-19

Due to the social distancing measures in place to protect the public health of our community, I imagine that Ramadan may be experienced somewhat differently this year. The Queensland Mental Health Commission recently spoke with Imam Uzair Akbar to discuss self-care during Ramadan and provide helpful advice in the context of COVID-19:

To all my clients, colleagues and friends participating in this special time, “Ramadan Mubarak”.

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