SHAFAQNA – A cross section of the Christian community in Malawi has commended Muslims for sharing `Eid Al–Adha celebrations with non-Muslims, a gesture which united people of diverse religions in the Southern African nation.
“Honestly, I am Very overwhelmed by this spirit of sharing. To witness slaughtering of huge numbers of goats and sharing them among thousands of people irrespective of their religious backgrounds has completely changed my mindset towards Muslims and Islam,” Pastor Leonard Bona of the Mustard Seed, in Malawi’s oldest City Zomba, told OnIslam.net.
“Besides, celebrating this feast, we should also celebrate this level of unity in diversity. `Eid Al-Adha has accorded Malawians of diverse religions an opportunity to come together and celebrate in a special way.
“Both Muslims and Christians, who are poor and hungry are able to share through this gesture. I highly commend Muslims for this development,” he added.
Bona said if Christians and Muslims were able to come together and celebrate some festivities, it would also foster mutual understanding between followers of the country’s two major religions which have always been locked up in differences over beliefs.
“By coming together and sharing, we’ll be able to understand each others’ teachings and learn to be tolerant. By staying away from each other, we create a gulf of misunderstandings. Let this interaction continue so that Good should be glorified,” Bona said.
“We serve and belong to one God.”
His sentiments were shared by an aged widow, who was dumb founded after setting her share of the meat.
“Is this real as a dream? I ate meat a long time ago. I have even forgotten how it tastes. This gesture is so wonderful and amazing. This level of love is very rare. Love should be demonstrated through actions. We need to go beyond words,” Beatrice Nembe, a member of the Women’s Guild of the Presbyterian Church of Malawi, told OnIslam.net.
“As the Bible teaches us that there is a blessing in giving than in receiving, as Christians, we should learn to live by what the Bible says. We should emulate this gesture from our Muslim counterparts. This celebration has alleviated our suffering as old and poor people,” she said.
She said both Islam and Christianity should teach its followers to love each other in both time of need and joy.
“As religions people, we should be able to reach out to those who are sick, hungry and poor, so that in times of need, these people should value and appreciate the love of God. Those suffering like me should have an ever lasting hope in a religion. What I have seen today, is the love my Bible teaches me.”
During this year’s festivities, a number of charitable organizations in the country intensified their efforts to reach out to both Muslims and Christians across the country.
Europe-based charitable organization Hasene distributed the meat products in areas hugely affected by the country’s worst flooding disaster early this year which left millions of people displaced and hundreds dead.
“During the flooding, both Muslims and Christians lost property, including livestock. It’s been a painful experience for them to settle down and start life all over again. It’s against this background that we have decided to share with them during this most important festivity in order to relieve their pain,” Abbas Panjwani, Hasene local coordinator, told OnIslam.net.
Panjwani said he had decided to target both Muslims and Christians to underscore the significance of `Eid Al-Adha.
“The whole essence of `Eid Al-Adha is about sharing. It is against this spirit that we decided to share the meat products amongst Christians as well. Both Muslims and Christians belong to one God, therefore, we went across the board to reach out to deserving beneficiaries,” said Panjwani.
“Islam believes in a spirit of sharing. We have done this to demonstrate to our Christian brothers and sisters, so that they should value giving as well and attach it to their beliefs. Here we are treating both Muslims and Christians in equally.”
Senior Chief Chikumbu, whose area had most of her subjects displaced, said `Eid Al –Adha had brought smiles and light on the face of her subjects.
“I have never seen this level of sharing. These celebrations have bought smiles and light on our faces. We have been going through a painful experience after the flooding. We lost all we had. The meat products we have received has meant something to us,” Chikumbu told OnIslam.net.
“Islam has taught me lessons. How many religions can do this even to people who are not their own? As a society, we have to be guided by this level of love for us to live in perfect harmony.”
Albarakah Charity Trust, which operates in the Muslim dominated southern region of the country, had 5000 goats slaughtered and shared among Muslims and Christians in equal measure.
“This year, the rural communities of the country are experiencing severe hunger. Both Muslims and Christians are suffering. We therefore felt that while we are giving the meat products to Muslims, we should also extend our love to Christian as well, because we live and work together in the communities,” Saeed Witness, Acting Executive Director for the charitable organization, told OnIslam.net.
“The number of Christians, who have come for this feast, is quite astronomical”. By coming in these large numbers, it clearly shows that our events are followed with interest even by the Christian community. By sharing with them, we are trying to show that we can go beyond religion and beliefs and co-exist as fellow human beings created by one God,” Witness said.
“We are all irrespective of our faith beliefs, going through hard times. This celebration has in one way or the other helped to ease the pain that we are going through, economically or otherwise. We believe with time both Christian and Muslims will in large numbers be able to celebrate `Eid Al-Adha together.”
Esa Arab, a successful Muslim business man who owns a chain of Halaal meat outlets across the country, said he had decided to share the meat products with both Muslims and Christians in the Lower Shire region of the country, because the devastation caused by the flooding was “heart–rending.”
“We seized this opportunity to take this festivity to this part of the country, where a lot of people died and others were made homeless during the worst flooding disaster. We have donated the meat to every person regardless of faith or social status in society. Through this action, we have a message to all Malawians that despite our diversity in religion, we are all one and we should be able to share what we have in time of need and celebrate together in time of joy,” Arab told OnIslam.net.
“As God’s people, we should value unity and peaceful Co-existence even in diversity. We should be able to celebrate and mourn together”.
Malawi, one of the poorest nations in the sub-Saharan Africa is a secular, but diverse religions nation. Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity. Muslims account for 36% of the country’s 15 million population.
Muslims celebrate `Eid Al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice” which marks the end of annual hajj.
After special prayers to mark the day, Muslims offer Udhiyah, a ritual that reminds of the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of God.
A financially-able Muslim sacrifices a single sheep or goat or shares six others in sacrificing a camel or cow as an act of worship during the four-day `Eid Al-Adha.
The Udhiyah meat should be divided in three equal parts, one each for one’s own family, friends and the poor.
It is permissible that someone in another country could perform the sacrifice on one’s behalf.