As part of measures aimed at strengthening religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence, a Spain Catholic church based in Barcelona has offered up its open-air cloisters for Muslims to eat and pray together after sunset.
It explained that the move followed COVID-19 restrictions that had been preventing Barcelona’s Islamic population from celebrating Ramadan (Islamic month of fasting) at the usual indoor venues prior to the pandemic.
Since the beginning of this year’s Ramadan, every evening between 50 and 60 Muslims, many of them homeless, stream into the centuries-old stone passages of the Santa Anna church, where volunteers offer a hearty meal of home-cooked food.
Reacting to the gesture, the church’s rector, Father Peio Sanchez, said that through the action, more adherents would come to understand that humans can cohabit peacefully despite religious differences.
Sanchez who spoke to newsmen as a man intoned the Muslim evening call to prayer beneath the orange trees of the church’s central courtyard, illuminated by the flames of gas heaters, said that more can be achieved in making the world a better place with religious tolerance.
“Even with different cultures, different languages, different religions, we are more capable of sitting down and talking than some politicians,” said the rector.
On her part, the dinner organiser and president, Catalan Association of Moroccan Women, Faouzia Chati, who found a receptive ear in Sanchez, sees the meeting of different faiths as emblematic of civic coexistence.
Before the pandemic, Chati used to organise Iftar gatherings in the city, but limits on indoor dining forced her to seek an alternative space with good ventilation and room for distancing which was granted by the church’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.
Reacting to the development, a 27-year old Moroccan of Berber descent who attends the dinners, Hafid Oubrahim, expressed satisfaction that both religions were coming together in showing the unity of purpose.
“We are all the same… If you are Catholic or of another religion and I am Muslim, that’s fine. We are all like brothers and we must help each other too,” he said.
During the month of Ramadan, observant Muslims do not eat between sunrise and sundown, breaking their fast only after nightfall with a meal known as Iftar.