This year, Ramadan runs from sunset on Thursday 23 April – Saturday 23 May . To help you pray during this time, for each week of Ramadan we are releasing stories about the experience of persecuted Christians during the fast. This week, Hannah*, an Open Doors partner in the Gulf region, shares her experience of what life is like for Christians during Ramadan, in a strongly Islamic region, where our brothers and sisters live under constant pressure.
This year, Ramadan runs from sunset on Thursday 23 April – Saturday 23 May . To help you pray during this time, for each week of Ramadan we are releasing stories about the experience of persecuted Christians during the fast. This week, Hannah*, an Open Doors partner in the Gulf region, shares her experience of what life is like for Christians during Ramadan.
The Gulf is a strongly Islamic region, where Christians are a small minority. Our brothers and sisters are under constant pressure and live in fear of being falsely accused of blasphemy and other offences – which can be heightened during Ramadan. Your prayers can help bring comfort and strength to our church family during a time which can be particularly challenging for them.
How do Muslims observe Ramadan in the Gulf?
There are those who take it very seriously. They wake early and pray an extra prayer at the five times of prayer every day. They start their fast with ‘Sehr’ (the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting) at sunrise. If it’s summer, they have a shorter fasting time, but the heat can be exhausting and makes people cranky and miserable.
At the same time there are those who see it as an opportunity to socialise and connect with their family over the many ‘parties’ that can get organised around the sunrise or sunset mealtimes that mark either the beginning or the end of the fast for the day. There are all kinds of stories around fasting. Some of them can be found in the Quran and others are folk stories that have grown in the telling over the centuries.
Fasting is rigid but it is the time of the month when much hypocrisy is exposed.
Ramadan is an eye opener. We see how strong the community of Muslims around us is… and how they come together as a very strong ‘brotherhood’.
Do Christians in the Gulf face higher levels of persecution during Ramadan?
Due to the sense of brotherhood among Muslims, if there is an ‘other’, like a Christian in the community, whether at the office or in the neighbourhood or school, they will get picked on, while higher levels of tolerance will be shown to Muslim. The poor treatment of Christians can range from daily harassment to angry outbursts. Christians are often told to remain hidden because the very sight of them or the sound of them reminds the Muslims of their fast and the fact that these ‘infidels’ are not keeping the same fast.
In some parts of the Gulf, if Christians are seen drinking water or accidentally consuming foods, they can be taken in by the authorities and have their heads shaved as a public punishment and demonstration of discipline for eating during Ramadan.
What would you like to ask people to pray for Christians in your region during Ramadan?
Please do pray for us. We do feel the stress and the extra scrutiny during Ramadan. Pray for strength, patience and tenderness in our attitude.
Find other stories exploring the experience of persecuted Christians during the fast. Each story is accompanied by prayer points, and questions for reflection, so they can be used as the basis of a Bible study or discussion group. There is also a simple Ramadan factsheet, giving some background on the fast.
For isolated believers around the world, life can be very hard. And it is even harder at Ramadan, where the inensity of the fast shines a spotlight on all those who do not follow Islam.
In the midst of coronavirus, online outreach and discipleship is more crucial than ever. Your support can help Open Doors partners like Hannah continue their vital ministry to isolated and secret believers.
*Name changed for security reasons