April is an extraordinary month for us to harness our interfaith and connectedness

File Picture: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

File Picture: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Published Apr 5, 2022


A Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jew sit around a table in April … Why? Not for lunch. It’s not the start of a bad joke. It’s the season of fasting or sacrifice for all the major faiths in Cape Town. And incredibly, they are all coinciding this year.

I don’t know how long it’s been since Ramadan for Muslims, Lent and Easter for Christians, Ram Navami for Hindus, and Passover for Jews have all occurred in the same month. We dare not let this moment to celebrate our common humanity by spreading kindness to all who live in our city pass us by.

The one thing I absolutely love about Cape Town is our interconnectedness through faith. It is the one thing apartheid could never quell. In communities like District Six where people of multiple faiths lived side-by-side, they would share in each other’s faith traditions and customs. That sense of community forged by our religions stood firm in our darkest hour and is still on display today.

Sometimes the gestures are tiny but they make a massive impact in the lives of others. Two gents I’ve written about before – actor and comedian Soli Philander and Twitter favourite Bryan Toerien – are already planning the breaking of the Ramadan fast (better known as Iftaar or boeka time when the sun sets) for homeless people who live under the Green Point bridge. A few Muslim Capetonians have opted in to treat who Soli calls the housing insecure in Cape Town for a special boeka occasion.

These times are of deep spirituality to bring you closer to Allah, Jesus, God, Yaweh, G-d and Rama respectively where one is far more conscious of one’s deeds – especially towards others. While you’re encouraged to fulfil all your religious obligations like prayers, meditation and abstaining from food and other worldly things, dare I say there is one act for me, especially that brings me closer to Allah this Ramadan. And that act is giving to the needy. The ones we’re meant to have compassion for when we fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

It is understandable how, when I was young, the most pronounced act of fasting was staying without food. But as you grow older there is much more that underscores a successful month of fasting from sunrise to sunset *in* Ramadan. It involves reflection, reading the Qu’ran rather than watching TV, being even more diligent about prayer and practising self-restraint. The act of worship that brings me the most joy is that of giving and being in service to others.

The act of worship of giving is common to all of the major faiths in Cape Town and marks a significantly holy period this month. How fortunate are those of us who are in a position to give? We are even more lucky that the faiths we follow have blessed us here in Cape Town with a special brand of interfaith coherence that we all subscribe to.

It’s been a tough two years with all of these special religious occasions being practised in isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. By their nature, the worshipping happens usually in congregation. But for the longest time have been alone in our grieving of those who have passed away, suffered in isolation while being sick, or lost livelihoods and income.

What an incredible opportunity this extraordinary month represents then for the people of faith in Cape Town to make the most of this time by harnessing our interfaith harmony and connectedness.

When these faiths join hands to serve the common good it is a thing of great beauty and holds the power for immense change. We have a gift forged by the many things our faiths have in common and not the few differences.

A Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jew sit around a table in April … not for lunch but in a way very few in the rest of the world can. Why?

But because in Cape Town they work together for good. It is an opportunity we must seize. Ramadan Kareem, blessed Lent, Happy Easter, Ram Navami blessings and Chag Sameach to you and your family!

Gasant Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a Grenade, is among the country’s most influential media voices. This piece was first published in Cape Town etc.

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