(July 17, 2014) – Acts of generosity and hospitality have become a defining feature of Ramadan in Canada.
Throughout the country, campaigns have been launched in support of local food banks and shelters, packaged meals are being distributed to the homeless and needy, and Canadians are being invited to share fast-breaking meals with Muslims.
Ramadan is the famous month-long fast of Islam during which Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn until sunset, every single day throughout the entire month. Ramadan began on June 28th and concludes on July 27th.
In addition to fasting, Ramadan is also a month of increased worship, special prayers, and recitation of the Quran.
While Ramadan is generally known as the month for personal restraint, worship and reflection, it is also the month of giving for Muslims as they support the needy and engage in charitable acts.
Traditionally, Muslims give their annual Zakat (alms) to the poor in developing countries and donations to support relief work around the world.
However, Canadian Muslims are increasingly giving to local causes through campaigns to help the disadvantaged and are opening up their homes and centres to their neighbors to share the evening Iftar (fast breaking) meal.
In the Greater Toronto Area, volunteers have launched the Project Ramadan initiative that put together baskets with food staples to feed a family of four for one month. Any family, irrespective of religion, nationality, caste or creed, is eligible to receive a food basket.
Since its inception, Project Ramadan has helped more than 3,300 families in the GTA.
“It`s amazing to see how far we`ve come since day one,” said Asma Nur Moten, Project Ramadan Volunteer Manager. “Every donation we receive, and every volunteer that spends their day with us, makes me feel like we reached our goal, we built something real, and it only goes up from here.”
Meanwhile, Give 30 a national hunger-fighting campaign that taps into the spirit of Ramadan is growing faster across the country than anticipated.
Give 30 is designed to motivate people fasting to donate a portion of the money they save by skipping meals during Ramadan to a food bank. The campaign has raised tens of thousands of dollars for food banks and inspired countless people to give.
“The Give 30 Campaign is a grassroots movement that’s catching on much faster than ever imagined,” says Give 30 founder Ziyaad Mia. “This year, Give 30 grows again, with nine food bank partners across 5 Canadian provinces.”
In Toronto, a food drive sponsored by the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign and the Islamic Institute of Toronto is raising donations for a women’s shelter and using the drive to raise awareness about violence against women.
“One of the goals of the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign is to create partnerships among Islamic Centres, women’s shelters and social agencies to create a future without violence against women,” said Umar Nasir, Co-Chair of the Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign. “Our Ramadan food drive is an excellent initiative towards this end.”
Through mosques and volunteer groups, food packages are being distributed to the needy in the inner cities.
In Toronto, volunteers from the Ramadan Sammich initiative prepare packaged meals that are delivered to shelters. Similarly, at a downtown Toronto mosque, Masjid Toronto, volunteers come together every Thursday evening to package food for distribution to the city’s shelters and the homeless.
In Ottawa, Montreal and London, similar initiatives that send out food packages to needy families, the homeless and shelters are underway.
Hospitality to one’s neighbors is fast becoming another unique aspect of the Canadian Ramadan experience.
Canadians are being invited to ‘Community Iftar (fast-breaking) Dinners’ by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute throughout the fasting month.
The Iftar dinners aim to bring people of various faith and ethno-cultural backgrounds together to foster dialogue and cross-cultural awareness. The organization also organizes ‘Meet Your Neighbor’ dinners where individual Muslim families invite guests to join them for the Iftar meal.
In Ottawa, the 6th Annual Harmony Iftar organized by a group of volunteers creates a forum where Muslims and non-Muslims share a delicious meal and engage in an inter-faith dialogue that is designed to build bridges and foster understanding.
Through these projects and numerous others across the country, Ramadan is taking on a distinctive Canadian flavour defined by hospitality and generosity to one’s neighbors.