In May last year in France, sunset wasn’t until after 9:30pm. That’s a looong time to go without food. I picked a day when I would be quite busy with voluntary work and accepted that it would be a challenge. I didn’t find it too difficult to sit with the other volunteers while they were eating lunch, I was mindful that I had chosen to do this and that avoiding the world isn’t really the spirit of it.
Dinner that evening was wonderful. My housemates had prepared a lovely meal, nicely laid out on the table with dates, juice, bread and a vegetable lentil dish. The final hour had been mentally hard as my stomach growled knowing that I would eat soon, but the tastes of the food and the companionship with my friends was certainly worth it.
This year I was in Bosnia for most of Ramadan. I was volunteering with No Name Kitchen. My friends who were sleeping rough in the city, refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere, were fasting despite the difficult living conditions. I talked with a lot of people about what it was like, and many people told me that they are used to it. They’ve grown up with the fasting tradition. But the words of one of my closer friends struck me the most.
“We’re used to going without food. Sometimes we will have two or three days when we can’t eat anything, fasting during the day is no problem.”
The freedoms of a Western European life start at the basics - access to food and water, the most basic of human rights.
My Muslim friends, who are still stuck in Bosnia, were very happy to hear that I had fasted with them for a short time. It was a pleasure to be able to have something in common, despite our lives being so different.
We talked about next year, that we will be able to celebrate together when they have reached safe places.
To show support for people stranded in Bosnia, donate to No Name Kitchen here.
Do you fast for Ramadan? If not, would you try it? Comment below.