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NGOs, Catholics organize an Iftar party with poor in south India

A church-based NGO and Catholics organized an ‘Iftar’ party for Muslims in south India on April 26 to promote social solidarity.

(‘Iftar’ is an Arabic word, meaning breaking the fast or the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset).

Welcoming the forthcoming Eid-il- Fitr celebration during the final days of the conversion-for-compassion month of Ramzan in the Jesuit-run Loyola College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, an ‘Iftar’ party with a difference was organized.  

The Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions (IDCR) housed on the college campus and the Chennai-based NGO called Education-Development-Creativity Service jointly organized the event of celebrating communion by breaking the religious barriers. 

This significant event was conducted with a title called, “Conversion to God through compassion to the poor: An Iftar with the marginalized.”

According to the title, people need to have passion for God and compassion for the poor, with who all need to express solidarity.

The organizers invited about 50 poor Muslim families from the neighborhood slum areas of Nungambakkam in the city of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. 

According to the 2011 Census of India, 87.9% of Tamil Nadu's population is Hindus, 6.12% are Christians, 5.86% are Muslims, 0.12% are Jains, 0.02% are Buddhists and 0.02% are Sikhs.

The inspiration to have this event sprang from referring to the fraternity document jointly declared by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Sheik Ahmed Mohamed al-Tayyeb at Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019, and the message of greetings (2022) from the Pontifical Council of Inter-religious Dialogue.

Jesuit Father Maria Arul Raja, a professor of theology and human rights activist, highlighted the significance of the mutual understanding between religions for promoting compassionate justice. 

In a multicultural society like India, all need to play a vital role to strengthen the social fabric of the nation, said Father Raja, the director of the 20-years-old IDCR Research Institute for Dialogue with various cultures, ideologies, and religions. 

While dwelling on the first chapter of the Holy Quran, Professor Nazeem Aktar, the student counselor of SRM College, Chennai, spoke on the centrality of God propelling all for reaching out to the unreached with the spirit of self-sacrifice, concern, and openness.

As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, B. Riaz emphasized the generous charity toward the marginalized to be the primary requisite for attaining fulfillment both here on earth and in heaven.

The popular educationist Dr. Ilamchezhiyan with his vast experience in dealing with the youth identified that the time-tested strategy for creating harmony was none other than credibly walking with the poor amidst all conflicts and challenges. 

Father Patrick, parish priest at Church of St Joseph the Worker, Susaipuram in Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese said unless the sense of superiority over other religions was not tackled, the egalitarian solidarity cannot be achieved in human history. 

The necessity of compassion toward all humans could bring about lasting peace among the people of God in the broken world, said Professor Muthupandi Selvi, professor at the Government Teachers’ Training Institute, Saidapet 

The popular speaker Vadavuran hailing from the family of the Venerable Saivite preacher Sri Kirubananda Variar insisted on the need for cultivating spontaneous empathy with tender righteousness towards every creature to create new heavens and new earth.

Dr. Stephen underlined the necessity of sustaining the collective and humble efforts of empowering the poor through constant conversion towards compassion.

It is heartening to notice that the faith sharing of these leaders from various walks of life dialogically expressed and effectively evoked the following deep insight into the hearts and the minds of the participants.

“The conversion to the Divine is possible only through the compassion towards the marginalized,” said Jesuit Father Michael Amaladoss, an international theologian.

In this inter-religious celebration, gifts of new costumes along with delicious “Biriyani” (a mixed rice dish originating among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent) were presented to the poor Muslim families hailing from the neighborhood.

The IDCR at Loyola is ever grateful to all these marginalized people for sanctifying these premises for doctoral studies with their prayerful presence and enthusiastic participation. 

Such dialogical efforts are the need of the hour to overcome the viruses of fundamentalism and communalism by engendering fresh energies for promoting peace and harmony in the broken world, said organizers.

All can promote the aesthetics of compassion leading to the ethics of egalitarianism in society, said a participant.  – With inputs by Budhali Prakash 


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