Muslim refugees starting new lives in Calgary, Canada, got a taste of the community spirit that marks the holy month of Ramadan when they attended an interfaith iftar -- an evening meal to break fast -- hosted by the Rockyview Alliance Church this week.
Muslim and Christian volunteers came together in the kitchen to prepare Arab-inspired cuisine, including kebabs and traditional pastries. Dates were also on the menu, which many Muslims eat to break their fast before the iftar meal.
Sixty people, including the Rockyview Alliance Church congregation, Muslim refugees, and volunteers from the community attended the iftar.
Up to 1,500 of the 25,000 refugees Canada has welcomed between November 2015 and February 2016 have been resettled in Calgary, and are now seeking meaningful integration into the local community.
Most of the refugees who broke their fast at Rockyview have been studying English at the church, to improve their job prospects and enhance communication with the locals.
“We’ve had English language classes at the church for years, and since many of our students this year are Muslims, most of them coming from Syria, we decided to spend a beautiful evening together and give them a taste of Ramadan,” Rockyview’s lead pastor, Shawn Vickar, told HuffPost Arabi.
The event intended to build bridges of love and understanding with the refugees, so that they would feel at peace in Canada, Vickar explained.
“It had never crossed my mind that a church would host an iftar for Muslims.”
Sam Namoura, founder of the Syrian Refugee Support Group in Calgary, says that the event was an opportunity for the church congregation to learn about fasting and the month of Ramadan.
“The congregation was very excited about the event,” Namoura said. “They paid attention to the tiniest details, including the types of food that Muslims would break their fast with.”
“They even set up a spot for people to pray, and laid done prayer rugs and then asked me if they were facing Mecca,” Namoura added.
Erfan Taana, a Syrian refugee from Daraa, was pleasantly surprised by the initiative. “It had never crossed my mind that a church would host an iftar for Muslims, and I would be among them,” he told HuffPost Arabi.
“I left feeling overwhelmed with emotion. I became much more positive, me and the other Syrians in Calgary [who attended the event]. We left with newfound enthusiasm to come together with our Canadian brothers and build ‘our Canada,’” he said.
This piece originally appeared on HuffPost Arabi and has been translated into English.