TORONTO – Every Christmas, Dr. Firas Al-Rawi volunteers to work on December 25 to give his Christian colleagues a chance to enjoy the holiday with their families.
“We all cover shifts for one another … we take care of each other,” Dr. Firas Al-Rawi, a Muslim emergency room physician who will be working on Christmas, told The Record.
“It’s relatively easy to get coverage for religious holidays. Working on Christmas is like our gift to the Christians,” he added.
Al-Rawi is not the only non-Christian doctor who volunteered to work during the holiday.
“The majority of doctors working on Christmas are not Christians,” says Dr. Joel Lexchin, a Jewish emergency room physician in downtown Toronto who will be working on the holiday.
“And it’s not just Jewish and Muslims, it’s expanded to Buddhists, Hindus and many other groups.”
Doctors working on Christmas say that work is usually light during the Christmas day.
“Even the patients who come in, even though they don’t really want to be there, you still feel the festive spirit,” Al-Rawi said.
“Staff usually bring sweets, that sort of thing. Decorations are all around … it’s a nice environment.”
Dr. Ahmed Taher, a resident physician at the University of Toronto, says Canada’s cultural diversity has made it much easier to secure time-off for special religious occasions.
“I have some family in Egypt, it’s a Muslim majority country at this point, and usually someone has to be on-call for work … everyone wants the same time off, like `Eid for example.”
On Muslim holidays, Taher usually takes time off to celebration the religious occasion with his family.
“I celebrate `Eid twice a year and sometimes at the end of Ramadan I take a few days off, and it’s never been a problem,” he said.
“It’s kind of like an unspoken understanding, like we’re all in this together.”