St Monica’s is a small multi-cultural primary school in the heart of Cathays, Cardiff. 23 languages are currently spoken in school and 67% of pupils speak English as an additional language. 58% of pupils are Christian, and 31% are Muslim, we also have children who follow other faiths (e.g. Buddhist or Sikh) and some children who do not identify with a faith. We have worked closely with the local faith community (Christian and Muslim) to help widen understanding about faith, culture and customs and have also had multi-faith prayer events and reflection days following terror attacks which have happened around the world.
During Ramadan we have held our own Iftar, welcoming families from the St Monica’s community to the breaking of the fast meal at sunset. As the doors to the school were opened a rainbow appeared over the entrance!
Over 100 people (Muslim, Christian and people of other faiths) attended the event in the school. Classrooms were turned into prayer rooms for Muslims, Christians (led by Rev. Caroline Downs) and rooms for reflection.
Tanvier Ahmed (a new governor for the school, member of the Muslim Council for Wales and a volunteer at the Dar-ul-Isra Mosque also in Cathays) made the call to prayer as the sun set. The fast was broken with soup, dates and yoghurt, everyone then went to different rooms to pray, observe others at prayer or reflect quietly on their own. When people felt ready they came together in the school hall to eat. Families brought a wide range of their favourite dishes to share with everyone, there were also donations from Dar-ul-Isra Mosque and Kasturi Restaurant.
The Iftar was a wonderful event to bring everyone linked with St Monica’s together in fellowship. It was a privilege to join with members of the school community during such a special occasion. As an observer and trying to take part in the Iftar I have been able to understand much better the reasons why many Muslims fast. Fasting during Ramadan is a humbling experience as you put yourself in the shoes of others who have very little, whilst understanding that you are doing this though choice and that it is by God’s grace (or luck or hard work depending on your belief system) that you are able to make that choice.
I have a deep respect for all who are able to express their faith, for all who are willing to humble themselves and show humility and I am profoundly grateful that I live in a country where similarities and differences can be celebrated. Christian or Muslim, the same values of respect, reverence, peace, friendship and hope are shared.