Words of Greeting by Fr. Donal to a group of Muslims who came at the request of Damietta Initiative to share with them and the friars, Ifthar - (breaking of the Muslim fast) - at Ramadan October 16 2006 at Capuchin Friary, Pretoria.
DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS, PEACE AND ALL GOOD.
On behalf of Damietta Initiative and its members, the Capuchin friars and students of Padre Pio, Pretoria, the OFM’s, the Franciscan Sisters and members of SFO who are present, we dearly welcome you as our brothers and sisters, just as Malik-il-Kamil once welcomed St. Francis in 1219 in the Egyptian city of Damietta. You have come to our Franciscan home and will bless it by your prayer, by your presence and by sharing Ifthar with us during this holy period of Ramadan.
Fasting for our holy founder, St. Francis of Assisi, just as it was for Muhammad – blessings be upon him - was not just intended to be a LITERAL PROHIBITION to eating and drinking.
Fasting for Francis, as it was for Muhammad – blessing be upon him - had deep MORAL IMPLICATIONS. It enabled him and his brother friars to experience the deprivation and hunger that the poor had to suffer involuntarily..
Fasting for Muslims and for Franciscans has also deep SPIRITUAL IMPLICATIONS.
For you, my Muslim Brothers and Sisters, I know you experience a closeness to God during Ramadan that is more intense than at other times of the year. One of your great theologians, al-Ghazali says that fasting at Ramadan is one-quarter of your faith. The aim of your fasting is, above all, to attune you better to God, the all-Holy One.
Your presence in this evening in our Cauchin friary during the blessed observance of Ramadan, reminds us also of your belief that is expressed in Sura 2: 185…that “Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur’an as a guide to mankind”.
But your presence this evening during the time of Ramadan reminds us friars that Christ the Lord, having received his mission from the Father, went to fast in the desert for forty days and forty nights. Saint Francis of Assisi, always inflamed with a great desire to imitate the Lord, centered his mission for God around Christ, and especially imitated his fasting and prayer. Francis remind us also that every friar ought to perform works of mercy more fervently in keeping with our traditional fasting practices. (Cf Capuchin franciscan Constitutions 103: 1,4).
So this evening, we Franciscans and members of the Damietta Peace Initiative extend our very deep respect for you, and who you are. Just as the friendship ensued when St. Francis and Sultan reached and embraced each other, so today we hope this joyful occasion will be only the beginning of a relationship that will enable us to work for peace together, around the values of nonviolence, reconciliation and Care for the creation throughout the whole of Africa.
So with humility, love, peace and joy we reach out and say to you this evening: RAMADAN MU-BARAK.