#ChristmasTogether- Give Someone a Bell or Ring Your Neightbour’s Doorbell!
Christmas is one of the most important festivals in the Christian calendar. It has also become a culturally significant national holiday. It may come as a surprise that Jesus is also an important figure in Islam. However, an important distinction between Christians and Muslims is that he is not called a son of God, but rather Jesus son of Mary or Isa ibn Maryam, as it is known in the Qur’an.
A common focus on Prophet Jesus could help close the divide between the world’s two largest faiths: Christianity and Islam. During the lockdown, we have seen many examples of faith communities coming together for common ground and to serve those alone, isolating or less fortunate. It showed people at their best – volunteering, helping neighbours, protecting those at greatest risk, pulling together as communities to support one another. Other initiatives such as the British Churches & Mosques Twinning project by Christian Muslim Forum is also significant. During interfaith week last month, Christian Muslim Forum brought mosque and church leaders together for a series of online conversation sessions between clergy and Imams, as well as lay leaders and volunteers, to foster deeper levels of friendship and understanding.
It is this inbuilt strength and will of the British people that we must be used to promote cohesion and respect for our differences. Differences should be occasions for, not obstacles to, dialogue. It is then our responsibility as neighbours, faith leaders, activists, politicians, journalists, and communities to ensure we take the right steps towards acceptance of those who are different from us – whether in terms of their views, lifestyle, belief or race. We must celebrate and promote that which binds us together, but equally challenge and debate the issues that may lead to division.
There are plentiful examples of Muslims setting up soup kitchens at Christmas time to serve food to the needy and homeless who often rely upon the kindness of strangers to enjoy a hot meal. It is also a time when Christians and Muslims work together to take care of those less fortunate during the holiday season. In the past, on Christmas Day many of the worshippers at Leeds Makkah Mosque have joined in preparing food for a dinner at a local church, All Hallows. The dinner was open to the whole community, including many refugees and homeless in our neighbourhood who otherwise may not have anyone to spend this national holiday with anyone. This year, we will be distributing food to people’s doorsteps and donating to local foodbanks.
Due to Covid, religious festivals such as Eid ul-Fitr, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali and many other religious festivals have not been celebrated this year as they would have. This Christmas will be like no other Christmas before. Many people will be cut off from family and friends. According to a recent survey 60% have said they had felt more lonely during the pandemic. Although people may be alone this Christmas, none should feel lonely. The #ChristmasTogether initiative has been launched by Together coalition to bring people together to rekindle the amazing spirit of looking after each other.
Reach out to someone who would love to hear from you this Winter. Give someone a bell especially anyone you know is on their own, or ring a neighbour’s doorbell to drop off some food for them this holiday season. Many mosques across the country have been preparing food packs and other gifts to give to someone in need, following the spirit of the teachings of Prophets Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon both of them). This collaboration to build kinder, closer and more connected communities will help us come out of this pandemic with a renewed sense of community and much deeper appreciation of each other.
Imam Qari Asim, MBE
Chair, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board and Senior Imam at Makkah Mosque, Leeds