Members of the Decorah Methodist Church have begun planning for this year's evening meals served to Luther students observing Ramadan. The meals will be served after sunset on the last Tuesday of May and the first three Tuesdays of June
A few years ago several Muslim students from Luther College came to speak at an adult forum at the First United Methodist Church after being invited by Luther religion professor Bob Shedinger, who has had long, trusting relationships with a number of Muslim students.
The Luther students admitted that one of the hard parts about being away from home was breaking evening fast during Ramadan. The students could not eat or drink until sundown, which, because Ramadan was occurring during summer, was around 9:00 p.m., when it was hard to find a nutritious, healthy meal.
Says First United Methodist Church member Linda Watson, "We asked if providing a weekly meal would be helpful. Their answer was yes. So a group decided to coordinate a weekly meal for any Muslim student who wanted to attend."
The students were asked if they wanted food brought to campus or if they wanted to come to the church to eat in its Fellowship Hall. Says Watson, "We emphasized that the sole purpose was to get to know them, feed them and share conversation."
The first year of the meals about nine students came. By last year's last meal there were 19 Muslims and as many Christians.
Adds Watson, "Not only were the students grateful for the food, but Ramadan to them is Fellowship. They missed that sense of community and these meals did something to create a new community." She adds, "What we had in common with these students was obvious. We all love family, seek friendships and want to live out our faith the best way we can. Asking respectful questions back and forth over ice cream for dessert was a valuable learning experience for all....We can find ways to divide and separate from each other or we can welcome diversity and embrace what it has to offer."