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Celebrating Ramadan

Members of different faiths comes together to break the fast and spread importance of cooperation.

Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Christians joined together for an interfaith Ramadan Iftar Nov. 7, at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society center in Sterling. They spoke of the importance of being brothers and sisters of faith, of working together and educating others — a theme that seemed even more important in the wake of the divisive presidential election.

"There's two ways we build communities — by breaking bread and by sharing stories," said the Rev. Dr. Clark Lobenstine, executive director of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

Both activities took place at the Iftar, which is the act of breaking the fast during the month of Ramadan. Devout Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and sensual pleasures during the daylight hours of each day of Ramadan, which is considered the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

At sunset, attendees partook of dates and rose milk before heading to prayers.

RAMADAN is also about intensifying devotion to Allah as well as contributing charitable works to the world, as Imam Mohamed Magid, the spiritual leader of ADAMS, explained.

"A manifestation of faith is how much you care about other people," he said.

The "moral issues" that many voters had cited as decisive elements of the recent election require a careful definition, he added.

"When we talk about moral issues, I think the things we need to be talking about is, how are we helping people in need?" he said. "That has to be part of the debate."

During Ramadan, efforts to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nothings is on the minds of every truly religious person, Magid said.

"If a person is not really helping people feed the needy ... that person has not faith," he said.

The InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, joins 10 faith communities to promote working together to bring social and economic justice to the metropolitan area — for example, working together on a Habitat for Humanity house.

To recognize the InterFaith Conference's achievements since 1978, ADAMS' chair for interfaith community relations, Farhanahz Ellis, presented Lobenstine with a plaque commemorating its 25th anniversary.

KHALID IQBAL, director of operations for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, harkened back, like Magid, to the election.

"Both leaders said how important it was to be united again under the banner of Americans," Iqbal said. "This is the place to start."

Bob Marro, who sits on ADAMS' government relations committee, remembered all the news services — both local and international — dropping in on the center as the election neared, wanting to know what Muslims thought of the race.

"It's been a very divisive election," Marro said. "It also signals a very strong interest by all of our community."

Judith Naiman, a member of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, whose husband is a lapsed Roman Catholic, thought the election had less to do with the interest in interfaith communication than others hinted.

"It wasn't the election so much as it was the reaction after 9/11," Naiman said, "and we wanted to be supportive of the Muslims."

WHATEVER THE REASON, the interfaith communities had at least one thing in common to celebrate.

"God has given us a unique power as human beings and that is the power to choose," said Iqbal. "The power to make a difference, the power to make this a better world."