By Brianna Deigan, Communications Intern
July 15, 2015
“There is an unseen sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness. We are lutes. When the soundbox is filled, no music can come forth. When the brain and the belly burn from fasting, every moment a new song rises out of the fire. The mists clear, and a new vitality makes you spring up the steps before you . . .” – Rumi
Ramadan is an Islamic holy month intended to focus one’s mind on prayer, charity, and spirituality as a way to purify oneself, as well as observe the first time verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the prophet Muhammad. This past Wednesday, July 8th, the Niagara Foundation celebrated Ramadan by hosting an Iftar dinner and Fast-a-thon at the Fourth Presbyterian Church here in Chicago. All in attendance had the pleasure of not only breaking bread with 170 other attendees and 20 volunteers of various religious and cultural backgrounds, but also collecting a combined total of 2,500 meals for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
As the event began, guests gathered in the church’s beautiful Buchanan Chapel, home of the intricate “Labyrinth Walk,” where people of faith can walk along when seeking to pray, meditate, and find god. After a few introductory speeches, the Niagara Foundation welcomed speakers Omer Mozaffar and Mari Gallagher. A lecturer and teacher of the Islamic faith, Mozaffar shared with the audience his knowledge as a Muslim, as well as the charity and gratitude fasting and prayer during Ramadan inspires within him. He describes the experience as removing the “fluff” from our true selves, which are typically disguised by in everyday interactions, and truly coming to terms with who you are. Following his speech, Mari Gallagher, a local expert on community health, spoke on hunger and nutrition in regards to Chicago’s less fortunate. Food insecurity, she illustrates, is a limited availability or access to nutritional and safe foods. Although there may be an abundance of food, if fresh and nutrient dense groceries are out of reach, the health of communities will suffer greatly. This insecurity can lead to higher rates of obesity and diabetes that is often characteristic of lower-income neighborhoods. Thanks to all of our help from donors, the meals collected through the Fast-a-thon for the Greater Chicago Food Depository will contribute to the fight against hunger and food insecurity here in Chicago’s neighborhoods.
As the sundown approached, Amro Helmy provided a marvelous musical performance of the Oud. Soon after, we partook in the Muslim tradition of breaking fast with a date. All in attendance, of all faiths and backgrounds, then came together as a community and shared an iftar dinner, consisting of a delicious array of Middle Eastern cuisine. We at the Niagara Foundation would like to thank all who made an appearance, and helped make this such a successful event. Happy Ramadan!