As COVID-19 restrictions continue to prevent Spanish Muslims from hosting usual indoor iftars, a Catholic church in Barcelona has offered its open-air cloisters for Muslims to eat and pray together during Ramadan.
“We are all the same… If you are Catholic or of another religion and I am Muslim, that’s fine,” Hafid Oubrahim, a 27-year old Moroccan of Berber descent who attends the dinners, told Reuters.
“We are all like brothers and we must help each other too.”
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During Ramadan, about 50-60 Muslims, many of them homeless, enter the passages of the Santa Anna church where volunteers offer a hearty meal of home-cooked food.
The iftar gatherings at the church were suggested after limits on indoor dining forced Muslims to look for alternatives with good ventilation and room for distancing.
Faouzia Chati, president of the Catalan Association of Moroccan Women who used to organize Iftar gatherings in the city, found a receptive ear in Father Peio Sanchez, Santa Anna’s rector.
“People are very happy that Muslims can do Iftar in a Catholic church, because religions serve to unite us, not to separate us,” said Chati.
Sanchez sees the meeting of different faiths as emblematic of civic coexistence.
“Even with different cultures, different languages, different religions, we are more capable of sitting down and talking than some politicians,” said the rector.
According to the Union of Islamic communities (UCIDE), Muslims make up 3.8 percent of the Spanish population, 40 percent are Spanish and the remaining 60 percent are immigrants.
Muslims in Spain are mostly from Morocco although there is a significant presence of Pakistanis and Senegalese Muslims in cities like Barcelona, Valencia, and Logrono.
In Catalonia alone, there are more than 1.5 million Muslims out of two million Muslims in Spain. Andalusia comes second with a population of more than 300,000 Muslims, and Madrid, with 280,000 Muslims.