By Rula Samain – Jun 15,2016 – JORDAN TIMES
Muslims and Christians share an iftar meal at the Assembly of God Church in Salt on Friday (Photo courtesy of Fakhri Rihani)
SALT — Gathered in a Bedouin tent in a churchyard, around 40 people waited for the mosque to announce the end of the daily fast with a call to prayer.
They had been invited by Church Pastor David Rihani, who spent several days preparing to serve the iftar meal, which breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“It took me three days to prepare for the event — to clean up the yard, set up the tent, and to bring the chairs and tables,” Rihani told The Jordan Times.
“Everyone from the neighbourhood participated without being asked, they saw me working and even though they are fasting, they volunteered to help,” he added.
“And this is how I lived my youth,” said Rihani, pointing to the guests and saying that most of them have been his friends since childhood.
“To Christians here, the holy month of Ramadan holds the same value of harmony, spreading peace and compassion, as to our brothers the Muslims,” the pastor explained.
”We were raised to respect our traditions, and in this city, Christians and Muslims enjoy all celebrations together,” said Rihani.
Rihani said the Assembly of God Church was built in 1927 by his father, Rev. Ayyoub, who attached a small school to the church and taught everyone who wished to learn for free.
He stressed that hosting an iftar meal in a church is not unique, or unusual, because of the spirit of coexistence in Jordan.
Christians and Muslims live side by side, in total harmony, and religious differences were never an issue, he said.
Local resident Ahmad Habasheen said the city of Salt, some 35km northwest of Amman, is special in many ways, but particularly because of the close relationship between its Christian and Muslim residents.
“We live together not only in one neighbourhood but actually in one house separated by a thin wall. Before, when people lived in tents, Christians and Muslims used to share tents…. Religion was never an element of difference,” he said.
As the imam’s prayer announced the break of fasting that day, people shared the iftar feast while chatting and laughing.
As the night drew in, seats in the tent were empty, but the place was still charged with a friendly and loving atmosphere.