Last Friday, on the 15th April 2022, we saw a rare conjunction of festivals for the Abrahamic faiths. Whilst Muslims were in the middle of Ramadan, Jewish people celebrated Passover, and Christians observed good Friday.
This rare conjunction of holidays is possible because the Islamic calendar is based on the moon and the Muslim festivals move across the western calendar, taking some 33 years to return to any particular date.
When my friend, Katie Clarke, asked if the Calderdale Interfaith Council (CI) would help her celebrate Passover on the 15th of April, I thought that this would be a great idea. This is why we exist, and how convenient that we can combine it with an iftar party. Soon after, I realised it was Good Friday on the same day, so with the help of another good friend, Cllr Jenny Lynn, the idea of the Festive bring and share Meal was born.
Alex Mathie, a trustee of Calderdale Interfaith shared her thoughts: I was pleased to be able to attend the celebration of the coinciding of Passover, Good Friday and Ramadan.
Forty or so people from several faith backgrounds gathered at the St Augustine’s Centre in Halifax, bringing food to share from all traditions whilst looking forward to hearing about different faith stories and rituals surrounding the Spring. The generous offerings of food made it a veritable feast to look forward to.
After a warm welcome by Perveen Hussain, of Calderdale Interfaith, a representative from each of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths outlined the significance of this time to an attentive audience. As is often the case, it was abundantly clear that we have more similarities than differences in our beliefs and approaches to living together peacefully in this world.
It sounded as though it would be an interesting evening and it was. Great food, great company, greeting old friends and making new ones. Wonderful evening.Anne Linehan, treasurer of CI
This is when Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus before celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The evening started with Shelagh Hirst speaking about the meaning of Good Friday. This is the Friday before Easter and about remembering the betrayal, judgment, crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ at Calvary. She highlighted that Good Friday follows Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. Christians believe that this is to represent Jesus’s sacrifice when he went into the desert to pray and fast for 40 days before later dying on the cross.
The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, simple living, and self-denial. During Lent, many people decide to give something up that they love – perhaps chocolate, sweets or even using social media.
Lent ends with Holy Week, which leads to Easter Sunday – the most important day in the Christian calendar. This day marks the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross, and is a celebration of his life.
The evening was a powerful and moving example of how people of all faiths and cultures can be together in peace and mutual enrichment.Gunhild Wilcox
Passover marks the exodus of the Israelites from enslavement to the Egyptians.
Katie took us through the Passover meal and the associated prayers. She explained the significance of the unleavened bread and bitter herbs. After iftar, everyone experienced the Passover meal for themselves, making a sandwich with the matzah, apple filling and herbs. We were then served a boiled egg in salt water to remember the tears of the ancient Israelites and destruction of the Temple. Finally, a clear vegetable soup was served. Katie explained that the meal would go on into the small hours for Jewish families.
After this, Tanveer Bostan talked about the deeper meaning and significance of Ramadan, explaining that fasting was not only common to the Abrahamic faiths but that most faiths also practiced some form of denial around food. Marrietta Maddrell told me later on that the traditions of fasting and feasting were thought-provoking, and reminded her of the Hindu and Buddhist practices from when she lived in India.
Alex Mathie concludes the evening in her own words: When the eagerly awaited time came, the fast was opened and we all shared food together. The joy and value of meeting and eating together in this way was obvious to see. We followed the Jewish tradition of hand washing and eating the symbolic components of the Jewish Seder meal before embarking on the food we had all brought to share. It was all ‘hands on deck’ from the moment proceedings began, with young people and adults alike all helping one another to feast from the kitchen. Everyone quite naturally took turns to help and there was plenty of valuable time to talk and make warm connections with one another.
I am so grateful to Katie, Jenny and Perveen for making this opportunity happen and hope that this can become an annual event with an even greater reach. Huge thanks to all for a memorable evening.
I have been a trustee with CI for the last 4 years and am now joint vice-chair with Dr Anand. The charity celebrated its 20th anniversary last November and its broad aims are to work towards racial and religious equality and promote the positive role of religious life in daily living.
We are fully supported by Calderdale Council and the Chair Of CI is always the Mayor of Calderdale. The steering committee includes local Councillors and the long serving Sail Suleman, who is the Council’s Cohesion & Equality Officer. Sail is really committed to CI and dedicates a lot of time to our annual calendar of events, which we are grateful for. CI works closely with Calderdale Council to respond to world events such as the Christchurch mosque shooting and the Sri Lankan Easter bombing uniting people against atrocities that seek to divide us.
You can read more about Calderdale Interfaith by visiting their website.