An Interfaith Christian’s Lessons from Ramadan
I like to define myself as an interfaith Christian.
I was born as a Catholic, and within the Church, I follow the teachings of two of the biggest Catholic spiritualities, Ignatian and Carmelite. During these past 7 years, I often wonder if I discovered these spiritualities or if they discovered me. I originally went through an extreme search for the mystic depth of life, which I did not find in the “traditional light Catholic practice” that I knew of at that time. So I began my search and visited, studied, and lived with a lot of different religious traditions.
Through this search, I have learnt a lot about each tradition. Each tradition has taught me a very important part of spiritual life that I wasn’t aware of in my elemental Catholic practice. I am now a follower of a more mystical Christianity.
I didn’t learn the importance of silence during Ignatians exercises; I did through Tibetans meditations.
I didn’t learn the importance of spiritual discipline during a Catholic retreat, I experienced it in the mountains; amongst indigenous people and the shamans.
Each tradition taught me something very important about spirituality, and that has made me a better disciple of Christ, who I love and see as my ultimate meaning.
That’s why I define myself as an interfaith Christian. I was born in a Catholic family, I practice Catholicism, but my spiritual experiences and my spiritual teachers have come from a lot of spiritual backgrounds and traditions.
But, what does all this have to do with Ramadan? As we all know, Ramadan is a Muslim practice. While Ramadan gets its complete meaning inside the Muslim faith, that doesn’t mean that Ramadan can’t teach something to other faiths.
Ramadan remind us all of very important religious values such as asceticism, charity, health, etc. Fasting makes me think to the wixarika people in my state of Mexico. In their culture, the marakames (shamans) have to undergo a very strong spiritual training, which includes sexual abstinence, fasting, and refraining from salt.
The Muslim community is the guardian of Ramadan and it spiritual teachings and values. By living and practicing Ramadan, Muslims remind their brothers and sisters from other religions about a very important part of spirituality. Through this holy month, we can all become better believers. This is all that interfaith is about; to help one another be more spiritual and committed to this world.
Elias Gonzalez’s reflection comes to the Parliament of the World’s Religions as part of the 2017 Interfaith Ramadan series, empowering interfaith allies, Muslim and those of other spiritual and religious backgrounds from around the world, to share their stories of service, community and gratitude during the month of Ramadan. Please contact the Parliament at info@ParliamentOfReligions.org, or tag us at #RamadanPoWR to share your own story.