One described the experience as ‘eye-opening’ as well as empowering
In solidarity with their Muslim counterparts, some Christians in the UAE abstain from food and water during the days of Ramadan while fasting for Lent, a 40-day religious observance that precedes Easter.
The routine has seen Christian residents breaking their Ramadan fast with vegetarian meals, as Lent involves abstinence from meat consumption.
As Catholics and Protestants across the country celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 17, locals said the occasion, which this year overlaps with Ramadan, provides an opportunity for introspection, unity and appreciation of the ‘humanity.
Some Christians have said they plan to continue fasting during Ramadan even after Easter.
For years, Mina Kiwan, an Egyptian Orthodox, has marked Ramadan with his Muslim college best friend Mustafa. When this year’s Lent coincided with the holy month, the two friends agreed to engage in mutual fasting.
“We both break our fast with vegetarian meals like salads, beans, potatoes and vegetable soup,” Kiwan said.
The Dubai-based media consultant described the experience as “eye-opening” as well as challenging.
Mina Kiwan (left), Mustafa (right)
“My friend Mustafa, a meat lover, has difficulty going vegetarian after a long day of fasting, but the experience encouraged him to adopt a healthier diet with less meat, especially when his uric acid tests returned to normal for the first time in months.”
Kiwan, who describes himself as a coffee addict, said fasting during Ramadan serves as an annual reminder to cut down on caffeine consumption and e-cigarettes.
Although the Orthodox Passover is celebrated next Sunday, April 24, Kiwan said he still plans to end the Ramadan fast.
“Whether it’s Ramadan or the Lenten fast, both religious observances stimulate our spiritual awakening and leave us with the basic lessons of life that we neglect in our busy lives, including self-control, patience , gratitude and empathy.”
On the occasion of Lent, Mariam Atef, an adjunct lecturer at Middlesex University, said by fasting Ramadan she aims to teach her students a lesson.
“I remind my students that they can still be positive and active while fasting. Self-control is optional and those who practice it achieve greater success in their personal and professional lives,” Atef noted.
For several years, Atef said she enjoyed the holy month fast with her colleagues. “I even sometimes help them plan their meals in advance.”
Supporting others, she added, is a treat, especially when it comes to “testing new levels of resilience and patience” this year.
“Fasting Lent and Ramadan made me realize how much self-control I can practice, and I can’t wait to take it with me for the rest of the year,” said Atef, who marks Easter next week.
She noted that the “remarkable spiritual moment” encouraged her to push ahead with the intermittent fasting regimen for the health benefits she experienced during the month.
“I feel more fit, productive and focused when I fast. It also helps me enjoy my meals better instead of snacking between office hours.
Beyond the health benefits, Atef said the spiritual month for both religions comes at a special time as the world continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It leaves us with important reminders that life is too short to be anything but kind. It reminds us of our humanity; that we should love and connect more,” she added.
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