The holy month of Ramadan took place this year from June 18 to July 16. The timing of this month of fasting from sunrise to sunset is based on the lunar Muslim liturgical calendar and varies from year to year.
It is marked by a refocus on spiritual life and includes recitations by children of the Holy Quran, much like Christian children reciting memorized Bible Verses in a spelling bee format. Successful "recitees" get certificates of recognition and gifts to encourage them to know and understand their religion. For 28 consecutive evenings, every "break-fast" is a shared meal with friends and family: lots of family time. And in recent years, many institutions and organizations invite guests to expansive breakfasts to meet and talk with each other.
Our Syrian refugee friends have expressed to us that they feel the pain of loss more intensely during this month. They are very far away from home and face a demoralizing daily struggle to hold their families' lives together. Many of their loved-ones are missing from the evening meals. And in the current circumstances of increased food insecurity there may not be enough food. What is supposed to be a joyful time is often overshadowed by feelings of how much has been lost.
One young refugee from the Zaatari refugee camp in the north of Jordan has expressed his feelings in this way during Ramadan:
"You will always find a reason for happiness;
Just meditate on your life
And be thankful for what God has given you.
Fill yourself with gratitude."
"This is the case for about 80,000 of us Syrian refugees trying to overcome the harsh living conditions in Zaatari under the blazing desert sun. It gets even harder during Ramadan as we struggle with high temperatures, dust storms, and soaring food prices. Though we are used to these problems, it gets even harder during the month of fasting."
"This is not the first Ramadan for us here in the camp. For some, it’s the third or fourth year we've spent away from our homes and loved ones. It does not get any easier to cope with the harsh conditions and the hard reality of being a refugee."
"Ramadan is the month for being with family, but so many family members are missing from the table."
"Ramadan is also a month of prayer. We find comfort praying to God for help to ease our agony and give us the strength to go on. We pray for patience, which is the most important lesson you learn while living in a refugee camp."
"In spite of it all, we spend nights visiting our families and friends and hanging out until the early hours of dawn, when a new day of a hard life begins again."
"But all this suffering is nothing compared to being a refugee far away from home."