More

How Christians are using their lawns to support their Muslim neighbors.

Ramadan is helping to shift how communities view Islam.

How Christians are using their lawns to support their Muslim neighbors.

Summer means lazy days and late bedtimes in many American households. But for Americans Muslims this year, it also means something more: Ramadan.

Many U.S. families celebrate Ramadan. Image via iStock.


Ramadan is the month that Muslims believe God began the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad. This year, Ramadan started on June 6 and will probably end on July 7.

During Ramadan, the world’s Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, pray more, give charity, and otherwise spend prayerful and peaceful lives. And while Ramadan is always interesting, it’s especially fascinating this year, as there’s also been a surge of bigotry toward Muslim Americans. The current negative political rhetoric about Islam has made this a difficult time for American Muslims across the nation to celebrate and focus.

But one Christian group in Minnesota is trying to change that tough dynamic by encouraging tolerance and understanding of their Muslim neighbors ... on their front lawns.

The Minnesota Council of Churches, a group of more than 25 churches from a variety of denominations, made news earlier this month for their Blessed Ramadan campaign, in which they asked community members to put signs like this one in their yards wishing Muslims a blessed holy month:

Image courtesy of the writer, used with permission.

After it was launched, the Blessed Ramadan program became a national hit.

It was featured on Voice of America Indonesia for “giving hope for better interfaith relationships to a majority-Muslim country where Christians sometimes experience persecution,” according to Rev. Jerad Morey, the project organizer and program and communications director of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

And it was called a triumph of the human spirit by Church Marketing Sucks.

Now, hundreds of Christians across Minnesota and the nation are supporting their Muslim neighbors during Ramadan.

This support came at just the right time, when it was greatly needed. Morey says they have provided signs to 53 interfaith, Catholic, Jewish, ELCA, UCC, PCUSA, UMC, Episcopalian, Universalist, and Community of Christ congregations.

Muslims are taking note and expressing their gratitude.

The groups have cultivated a great interfaith experience for the community. Image via iStock.

A Muslim myself, I’m involved heavily in interfaith dialogue and outreach in my own Greater Houston community. I’m also raising two first-generation American children, and every day I see how much of difference just one hand extended in friendship can mean to my family.

Blessed Ramadan gives me hope. It gives me hope that there are kind, generous people in the world, and that they hail from all faith backgrounds. It is such a small thing, but it sends a powerful message.

Other Muslims have expressed similar thoughts. Asad Zaman of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota told the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “If I see a sign, it tells me that the person believes this country belongs to everyone, that no one should be excluded. There is a vast reservoir of goodwill among people. The Blessed Ramadan signs allow that to be expressed.”

And Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “It’s a powerful message to deter intolerance.”

Image courtesy of the writer.

Besides being a spiritually uplifting month, Ramadan is also considered a time of community.

Traditionally, many mosques open their doors to Muslims and non-Muslims alike to break the fast together (this is called iftar) and offer additional nighttime prayers.

Increasingly, these iftar events are turning into interfaith events as well. The Minnesota Council of Churches hosts the Taking Heart interfaith iftar to bring faith groups closer together. And this year, their joint program with the Muslim American Society of Minnesota will welcome an estimated 1,000 non-Muslims into these events through 19 mosques/Islamic centers.

Interfaith iftars are nothing new – even the White House holds an official one each year.

But they are drawing more attention in recent years amid the backdrop of negative political rhetoric and terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists.

In such an environment, when American Muslims often feel worried about their future and disheartened about constant stereotyping, sharing Ramadan with a neighbor can be an easy and effective way to change perspectives and increase tolerance in the community.

Celebrating Ramadan is a great way to engage with one another, even if the time spent looks as corny as this stock photo. Image via iStock.

Whether you prefer putting up signs or attending an event, there is so much that can be done to promote a more inclusive and tolerant religious community!

Here are some tips for how you can support your Muslim friends on this and every Ramadan:

  • Learn about Ramadan by asking a neighbor or reading articles like this one or this one. Learning about Ramadan can help debunk stereotypes about the traditions behind this month.
  • Visit a mosque for an interfaith iftar for some good conversation and great food. At my mosque and hundreds of others around the world, Muslims talk and eat with their neighbors every day.
  • Ask a Muslim neighbor or coworker if he or she needs help while fasting. Unlike Lent, Ramadan can be physically exhausting, and your support will be very much appreciated.
  • Wish your community a Blessed Ramadan, in the same vein that you wish them Merry Christmas or Cinco de Mayo! I make it a point to give good wishes to others on their holidays, and it really pleases me when they do the same for me.
  • Try fasting, even if it’s just for a day, to experience some of the spiritual benefits Muslims get from Ramadan. Some of my friends have loved this exercise and continue with me each year.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less
via Kim Kardashian West / Twitter

It's not hard for most people to make fun of the Kardashians. But this week it got even easier after Kim tweeted she took a birthday getaway to Tahiti with her friends and family — during a deadly pandemic.

"After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time," she tweeted.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Ah, the awkward joy of school picture day. Most of us had to endure the unnatural positioning, the bright light shining in our face, and the oddly ethereal backgrounds that mark the annual ritual. Some of us even have painfully humorous memories to go along with our photos.

While entertaining school picture day stories are common, one mom's tale of her daughter's not-picture-perfect school photo is winning people's hearts for a funny—but also inspiring—reason.

Jenny Albers of A Beautifully Burdened Life shared a photo of her daughter on her Facebook page, which shows her looking just off camera with a very serious look on her face. No smile. Not even a twinkle in her eye. Her teacher was apologetic and reassured Albers that she could retake the photo, but Albers took one look and said no way.

Keep Reading Show less
via Ted-Ed / YouTube

Trees are one of the most effective ways to fight back against climate change. Like all plants, trees consume atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis then store it in their wood tissue and in the surrounding soil.

They work as an organic vacuum to remove the billions of pounds of carbon dioxide that humans have dumped into the atmosphere over the past century.

So, if trees are going to be part of the war on climate change, what strategies should we use to make the best use of their amazing ability to repair the Earth? How can we be sure that after planting these trees they are protected and don't become another ecological victim of human greed?

Keep Reading Show less