Easter, Passover, Ramadan time to reflect on what makes United States stand out

Victor Begg is the author of the 2019 book, “Our Muslim Neighbors: Achieving the American Dream; An Immigrant’s Memoir.”

Lent, Passover and Ramadan converge in April. It’s a time for prayers and family gatherings for Jews, Christians and Muslims. In their own ways, the three Abrahamic faiths seek to remind us of our responsibility for each other and for the world.

What brought these religious observances together? And, what is the significance of it?

The answer to the first question is in the lunar cycle that plays an important role in aligning the calendars. The dates change due to the monthly phases of the moon. Therefore, the convergence of these holidays around the same time doesn’t happen every year.

The 33rd annual Community Easter Sunrise Service was held on Sunday, April 4, 2021, at Jaycee Park in Vero Beach. The free, public event was led by Roger Ball, senior pastor of Freedom Church.
The 33rd annual Community Easter Sunrise Service was held on Sunday, April 4, 2021, at Jaycee Park in Vero Beach. The free, public event was led by Roger Ball, senior pastor of Freedom Church.

Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar, which is roughly 11 days shorter than the solar year. The first of the month of Ramadan was April 2. It lines up this close to the Jewish and Christian holidays every three decades.

At the time of Jesus and the Biblical prophets, people followed a lunar calendar, not a solar calendar. Lent, for the Christians, marks the 40 days leading up to Easter. Easter usually occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, the paschal full moon. Passover is always on the 15th of the Jewish month of Nissan, which is also a full moon in the spring. These holidays often end up close on the calendar.

The answer to why this unusually holy month is significant would be to recognize that there’s more in common between the religious practices than we know. We live in religiously diverse communities - another sign of an inclusive America.

The Islamic Association of the Treasure Coast raised $10,000 during Ramadan and donated the proceeds to the Treasure Coast Food Bank. The money will provide 80,000 meals to area families. Ramadan is a month of fasting and prayers.
The Islamic Association of the Treasure Coast raised $10,000 during Ramadan and donated the proceeds to the Treasure Coast Food Bank. The money will provide 80,000 meals to area families. Ramadan is a month of fasting and prayers.

How can the spirit of this holy season manifest in a period of peaceful neighborhoods and beyond to a global spring of peace? We face much strife and divisions in America and around the world. How can we transfer the moral lessons of moderation, repentance and self-denial from fasting into actions that lessen conflict?

Fasting is a pillar of faith that naturally brings humility and peace in human behaviors. It leaves less energy to foster violence and aggression - a much-needed grace in increasingly violent tendencies among many.

In this file image from March 28, 2002, Abbe Newman and her daughter, Rachel, 9, far left, read passages from the Haggadah, a book containing the Passover narrative and the ritual for the Seder meal.  In Judaism, Passover commemorates the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt.
In this file image from March 28, 2002, Abbe Newman and her daughter, Rachel, 9, far left, read passages from the Haggadah, a book containing the Passover narrative and the ritual for the Seder meal. In Judaism, Passover commemorates the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt.

Many Christians will see the suffering of Jesus as a reminder to be more concerned for the suffering of people in today’s world. Jesus fed the hungry. Muslims observe an entire month of fasting to seek God's consciousness, together with another pillar of their faith that ordains giving zakat or alms - to instill an act that naturally helps identify with the hungry and the poor.

At Passover, Jews recite, “Let all who are hungry come and eat,” to welcome strangers to their Seder and provide food for anybody in need.

For the millions across America and around the world, starvation and malnutrition are a daily reality. This month presents an opportunity for the faith communities to come together to help and support food banks. The knowledge that our faiths have a common religious value would be an impetus. Such interfaith alliances also remove religious barriers and foster cooperation.

Today more clergy are committed to inter-religious cooperation with a better understanding of changing demographics. Many of today’s American families have mixed religions.

Victor Ghalib Begg is a Muslim community activist and interfaith leader who lives in Fort Pierce.
Victor Ghalib Begg is a Muslim community activist and interfaith leader who lives in Fort Pierce.

A Pew Research study highlights: “One in five U.S. adults were raised in interfaith homes.” The same research shows there’s little discord in multi-faith families and millennials are more likely to have been raised in households with mixed religious identities. This trend will only continue with the changing landscape of America.

The recognition of this holy month as such makes America stand out among the nations of the world - more than being an economic and military power. It is the idea of our Founding Fathers: “One Nation Under God."

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Easter, Passover, Ramadan time to remember American founders