PERTH, Australia – Over the past three weeks in Ramadan, Friday has been celebrated as a special occasion when members of Perth Muslims and Christians come together to enjoy food, conversation and socialize at a local church.
“If religious communities are just left to their own devices this is really the natural outcome,” imam Faizel Chothia told Perth Now.
“It’s not a novelty, it’s part of a long history that stretches out millennia … Christian and Muslim communities have lived side by side for hundreds of years, so what we’re doing here is replicating what was the reality in times gone by.”
Since the beginning of Ramadan, which kicked off last May 27, special iftar meals have been hosted at the Beaconsfield’s St Paul’s Anglican Church every week.
Fremantle’s Muslim community — who hail from places as diverse as Bosnia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Italy and of course, Australia — have used the church hall for Friday prayers every week for five years, but as the Islamic Holy month approached this year, imam Chothia and his friend Rev. Peter Humphris decided they wanted to do something more to bring their two communities together.
So every Friday, at sunset, St Paul’s Muslim parishioners invite St Paul’s Christian parishioners to break their daily fast with them, setting out plates of food and socializing before taking seats in the amphitheater behind the church for a question and answer session nutting out some of the knottier issues of faith, culture and politics.
“It’s organic, it’s natural, it doesn’t feel difficult, or awkward,” Rev. Humphris says of the coming together of the two faith groups.
“Once you realize how much we delight in each other, (you realize) we’re missing something by not having events like this.”
With his long beard and Muslim robes, does he ever feel uncomfortable on the street? He laughs.
“I’m from South Africa, this is like kindergarten,” he says.
Being friends of years, there is plenty of mutual respect between Rev. Humphries and Imam Chothia. “He is my soulmate,” the Imam jokes.