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This year has featured a rare overlaping of three major holidays for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Passover, Easter and Ramadan converging as they have — along with several other holy days in April for Sikhs, Hindus, some Buddhists and others — should provide an additional chance to celebrate both the shared values and different traditions of these religions.
“The holidays are the enactment of the core values, and we can actually see before our eyes the beauty of that tradition through the holidays and through ritual,” Rev. Stephen Avino, executive director of the Parliament of World Religions, told the Associated Press recently. “You can compare that to your own traditions, and you can see the similarities and differences and within that is the beauty of that. And you start to see that faith as being worthy of reverence, while still maintaining your own faith.”
As BDN reporter Judy Harrison explained in a recent story about the way local communities are celebrating three of these holidays, Passover commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, involves fasting from sunrise to sunset along with reflection and spiritual discipline. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and follows the 40-day Lent period of fasting and penitence.
In a regular year, at a regular time, the overlap in timing and traditions of these holidays would simply be a chance for more celebration and reflection — for people to respect their differences and recognize their underlying similarities. But as Pope Francis alluded to in Easter remarks, this isn’t a regular time for many people around the world. He called it an “Easter of War” and highlighted conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East and Africa.
“Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets,” Francis said, as reported by NPR. “May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”
The Pope did not directly address the one person who needs to hear this message above all others: Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is Putin who is responsible for turning this holy season into a season of war for Ukrainians of all faiths. It is Putin who, while claiming to “denazify” the country, has horrifically forced Ukrainian Jews to celebrate Passover much like their ancestors leaving Egypt or fleeing Hitler and the actual Nazis: Without a home. And perplexingly, abhorrently, Putin is doing it with the support of a prominent Russian Orthodox faith leader.
Julia Gris, a rabbi from the Ukrainian city of Odessa, told NPR that Passover is still a time for celebration, even after having to flee her home and country.
“When all your life in one small suitcase,” Gris said. “Where you have key from the home, but don’t have a home anymore. I would not wish to anybody to feel this.”
Senseless doesn’t truly capture the reality of this situation. Evil is a better word.
The holiday conflict has not been limited to Ukraine. Israeli police and Palestinian worshipers traded stun grenades and stones recently around the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem.
Judaism, Islam and Christianity all consider Jerusalem holy, and all tie back to Abraham. Yet these shared roots do not always sprout a shared peace.
At the risk of providing the editorial version of a naive montage of celebrities singing a John Lennon song, we have to ask: How can we share all these ties and still have such trouble sharing the world with each other? Why do the things that make us different so often seem to overshadow the things that bind us together?
We don’t expect to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or war in Ukraine with these questions. But as multiple religions celebrate and reflect, we hope other people are asking these questions too.
Nina Fernando, the executive director of a multifaith national coalition that works to counter and prevent anti-Muslim discrimination, spoke with NPR about the overlap of holidays.
“With the time that we’re living where essentially we’re polarized and divided among racial and religious and political lines, we can take this opportunity to talk about how to live well together amidst our diversity and talk about these holidays overlapping,” Fernando said.
It sounds so simple, but too often, living well together has proven difficult. That doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t keep trying.