With the current situation of COVID-19, an in-person event like “Dinner After Dark” may not be possible. How could you support your Muslim friends during Ramadan online this year instead?

Ministry Update: Cleveland, Ohio

Since 2014, IFI has been welcoming and befriending international students in Cleveland, Ohio. The local outreach reaches four universities and has impacted an average of 200 students a month in 2019, many from the Middle East and India. As the ministry has grown, the love of God has touched many more international students from around the world. Please celebrate the work God is doing in Cleveland!

Learn more at cleveland.ifipartners.org

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Kindness, conversation and delicious foods are served after dark to break a fast during Ramadan. IFI Cleveland hosts these “Dinner After Dark” meals to show God’s compassion – particularly to Muslim international students who are away from their loved ones during Ramadan.

“Dinner After Dark” is labeling for volunteers, explains IFI Cleveland Area Director, “J.P.” These gatherings occur much later than Americans are accustomed to eating dinner, typically after 9:00 pm. Muslim students simply think of the IFI-hosted meals as “Iftar” or “breaking of the fast.“

Ramadan’s Cultural Significance for Muslim Students

Ramadan has meaning for practicing and non-practicing Muslims alike. Muslims fast, abstain from pleasures and pray to become closer to God. Families gather and celebrate that God first revealed the words of the Quran to Mohammed during what comprises the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

J.P. likens Ramadan to having the sentimental significance of the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas for Americans that involves special foods. Muslims similarly have special foods they enjoy during Ramadan that they may not eat during the rest of the year such as beef and rice dishes.

IFI Cleveland has hosted meals for as many as 75 students in a backyard setting during nice weather. Last year’s gathering was held indoors with about 25 students.

In 2020, Ramadan in the US begins on April 23 and ends on May 23. IFI Cleveland plans to host several “Dinners After Dark” on separate Friday nights during that time frame. [UPDATE: Due to COVID-19 precautions, will have to think creatively!]

Tips for Hosting a Dinner After Dark

For those interested in hosting a “Dinner After Dark” – or Iftar – for international students in their area, here are several planning tips:

  • Identify a Muslim co-host who can help plan the event. The order of the evening may vary depending on whether guests are Sunni or Shia and their ethnicity. Muslims may prefer to break their fast with dates and water, followed by enjoying soups and finger-foods, a time of prayer, and lastly eating a large meal together.
  • Determine locations for prayer since this is a traditional part of Ramadan. Any open space will suffice with outdoor events, but indoor rooms should be separate for men and women. Be aware and inform volunteers that the point of this gathering is to be culturally mindful and respectful of the beliefs of others. The hope is that this approach will cultivate mutual respect and offer the opportunity to talk about differences of belief on a deeper level.
  • Invite Muslim friends to bring a dish to share. IFI Cleveland provides a substantial chicken and rice dish catered from a local Arabic restaurant. IFI also supplies water bottles and dried dates. Americans can bring appetizers, salads or desserts to supplement the meal. The main meal is often served about 45 minutes after the breaking of the fast.
  • Create a beautiful scene for the special time together. Set up canopy tents and string white lights outdoors when the weather is nice, J.P. suggests.

Let’s encourage IFI Cleveland in welcoming international students at this year’s Dinner After Dark gatherings. May the students see God’s love in the serving volunteers and conversations that unfold during the meal together.