By Matters India Reporter
Dubai: With 10 days to go for the Eid festival, the St Thomas Orthodox Cathedral in Dubai distributed iftar food kits at the Sonapur labor camp on June 5. The camp is home to more than 200,000 Asian workers, mostly from the Indian subcontinent.
This year was a special one for the church as it is celebrating its golden jubilee.
Speaking at the camp event, Father Ninan Philip, the vicar, hailed Ramadan as a festival of brotherhood and love. He noted that all major religions have fasting, which is meant to improve man’s relations with fellow-beings as well as with God. He also noted that in present times, these two relationships are on the wane. He expressed hope that the small gesture from his Church will help improve such relations.
Speaking in Hindi for the benefit of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi laborers, Assistant Vicar Saju Thomas likened the month of Ramadan to stopping at a traffic red light – when God makes us stop and ponder over our lives.
Church committee members pointed out how Ramadan had a unifying effect – people ate food together at the breaking of fast irrespective of their social or economic class. Ramadan is also the month when a person’s mind, body and soul become purified through fasting, they noted.
The church committee members then visited laborers also in their rooms to distribute the food packets.
Schools in the emirates also go on charity drives during Ramadan. They collect donations from their pupils – from cooking oil, sugar and rice to soaps, shampoos and deodorants – to distribute at labour camps.
Abu Dhabi and iftar parties
This year a school in Abu Dhabi distributed iftar food packets for motorists at traffic intersections, mainly meant for those who get caught in traffic at iftar time.
The capital also witnessed a rare iftar get-together when the St Andrews Anglican Church hosted for the first time a special inter-faith iftar on June 5. The church is also celebrating its golden jubilee. About 150 people attended the event. People broke their fast with dates, water and laban (buttermilk) as is the custom here.
Rev Andy Thompson, senior chaplain at the church, said the iftar was organized to express gratitude to the Founding President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Nahyan, for his commitment to tolerance.
In the Persian Gulf countries, majority appeasement and being in the good books of the establishment becomes the norm for minority expatriate communities or their organizations such as schools and churches.
A Christian building a mosque with his funds for Muslim laborers or schoolchildren distributing iftar goody bags at traffic junctions or churches donating food kits for fasting laborers in labor camps are not merely to appease the majority community, they are a means of participation in the true spirit of Ramadan, a month of selflessness and sacrifice, a Church observer told Matters India.