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Dr George Emile Irani
Being a Christian during Ramadan

Dr George Emile Irani is Associate Professor of International Relations at the American University of Kuwait.

By Dr George Emile Irani
RAMADAN: Islam’s sacred month. This is my fifth year living Ramadan in Kuwait. I have lived Ramadan in Lebanon while growing up in Beirut. I hail from a devout Christian Maronite family. My late parents were very close to their faith and they tried to impart this faith to their children.
Growing up in Lebanon in a Christian environment and going to a private Christian school I did not know what Islam was. I knew that some of my classmates were Muslims but I never had an idea about their faith. I had never entered a Muslim family’s house in Beirut until I was 18. At that time I became aware of the Prophet’s (PBUH) faith and initiated readings about Islam and the Holy Quran.
I really discovered Islam while completing my graduate work in California. It was during the late 1970s when the civil war in Lebanon was pitting Lebanese against Lebanese, Lebanese against Palestinians and later on against Israelis.

As soon as I completed my course work for the doctoral degree I decided to write my dissertation on the Vatican’s role in the Middle East. This was a golden opportunity to learn about Arab Christians, Christian-Muslim relations and the role Christians and Muslims played in the history of Lebanon and the Arab Middle East. I also learned about Islam and read some of the inspiring suras in the Holy Quran such as the Sura of Mariam and Surat Joseph.

These are difficult times to be an Arab Christian. I guess these are difficult times to be an Arab period. Christians in the Middle East are faced with many challenges emigration being one of them. Since 2003 when the USA intervened militarily in Iraq the country’s Christian community has been decimated. The Christians of Syria are emigrating wherever they can get asylum. Palestinian Christians are becoming like fossilized communities and the Old City of Jerusalem a “museum of stones” to use Pope Paul VI’s words. In Lebanon, Christians are leaderless incapable even to elect a president. Egypt’s Christians are not in better shape. Their fate is still uncertain and they are the first to be victimized for their country’s challenges.

I like Ramadan with its attendant rituals: the fasting, family gatherings, the sense of charity and forgiveness. I am glad to celebrate Ramadan with my Muslim brothers and sisters in Kuwait. I honestly admire the Muslim faithful’s attachment to the faith. During the Christian Lent I do not fast. I will only need to discipline myself to learn how to fast! It is a redeeming virtue.

By: Dr George Emile Irani

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