Ramadan 2022 in UAE: Meet the Christians fasting during the holy month and Lent

One described the experience as “eye-opening” as much as challenging



by

Sherouk Zakaria

Published: Sat 16 Apr 2022, 3:59 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Apr 2022, 4:10 PM

In solidarity with their Muslim counterparts, some Christians in the UAE are abstaining from food and water during the days of Ramadan while fasting for Lent, a 40-day religious observance that precedes Easter.

The routine saw Christian residents break their Ramadan's fast with vegetarian meals, as Lent entails an abstinence from consuming meat.

As Catholics and Protestants across the country celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 17, residents said the occasion, which overlaps with Ramadan this year, presents an opportunity for self-reflection, unity and appreciation of humanity.

Some Christians said they plan to continue fasting for Ramadan even after Easter.

For years, Mina Kiwan, an Egyptian Orthodox, has been marking Ramadan with his Muslim university best friend Mustafa. When this year’s lent coincided with the holy month, both friends agreed to commit to one another’s fasting.

“Both of us break our fast with vegetarian meals like salads, beans, potatoes and vegetable soup,” said Kiwan.

The Dubai-based media consultant described the experience as “eye-opening” as much as challenging.

Mina Kiwan (left), Mustafa (right)
Mina Kiwan (left), Mustafa (right)

“My friend Mustafa, a meat lover, is facing difficulties in turning vegetarian after a long day of fasting, yet the experience has encouraged him to adopt a healthier diet with reduced meat, especially when his uric acid tests came back normal for the first time in months.”

Kiwan, who describes himself as a coffee addict, said fasting during Ramadan serves as an annual reminder to reduce caffeine intake and e-cigarettes.

Although Orthodox Easter will be observed next Sunday, April 24, Kiwan said he still plans to complete Ramadan’s fasting.

“Whether it’s Ramadan or lent fasting, both religious observances boost our spiritual awakening and leave us with life’s basic lessons that we overlook in our busy lives, including self-control, patience, gratitude and empathy.”

Marking Lent, Mariam Atef, adjunct faculty lecturer at Middlesex University, said through fasting Ramadan, she aims to deliver a lesson to her students.

“I remind my students that they can still be positive and active while fasting. Self-control is optional, and those who practice it achieve more success in their personal and professional lives,” noted Atef.

For several years, Atef said she has been enjoying fasting the holy month with her colleagues. "I sometimes even help them plan their meals ahead."

Supporting others, she added, is a treat, especially when it comes with "testing new levels of resilience and patience” this year.

Mariam Atef
Mariam Atef

“Fasting for both lent and Ramadan made me realize how much self-control I can practice, and I look forward to carrying this with me for the rest of the year," Atef, who marks Easter next week, said.

She noted that the “remarkable spiritual time” has encouraged her to take forward the intermittent fasting diet for the health benefits she yielded during the month.

“I feel more fit, productive and focused when I fast. It also helps me enjoy my meals better instead of snacking in between office hours.”

Beyond health benefits, Atef said the spiritual month for both religions comes at a special time as the world continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It leaves us with important reminders that life is too short to be anything but kind. It reminds us of our humanity; that we should love and connect more,” she added.

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