It’s a special time to be here on this last day of Ramadan – the eve of 1431 H Idul Fitri.
Children are singing Muslim songs and prayers from the mosques, there are parades in the street, and fireworks are exploding everywhere.
There is truly a spirit of reverence and celebration in the air here in Jogjakarta.
One of the gifts of traveling around the world is witnessing first hand how other people celebrate their religious faith. I don’t have to rely on the image that news outlets present – I can see it for myself, and draw my own conclusions.
Over the years I have seen many Idul Fitri celebrations, and have had the pleasure of sharing it with the many Muslim friends I have made.
It always delights me to hear the conversation because it is not so different than at similar gatherings in my own family. The spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude is also familiar, from my own family gatherings. In fact, everything is pretty much the same, except the occasion.
That’s why it really annoys me to hear about people like Terry Jones, the pastor of that small Florida church who is planning to burn the Quran on September 11th. It’s such small mindedness and disrespect for other people, their culture, and their religion that keep the world in the state it is.
How can we possibly have peace, without respect?
To imply that the September 11th attacks were a Muslim crime is absurd. Holding that line of thought, maybe we should burn Shinto and Buddhist holy books to punish the Japanese for attacking Pearl Harbor. Most of Hitlers forces were Christian – what are we going to burn for that one?
As an American, I am truly ashamed to share the same nationality with Terry Jones and the members of his church – the Dove World Outreach Center. And, as a Christian, I’m as offended by this act of violence in the name of Christianity, as all the Muslims I know are when violence is perpetrated in the name of Islam.
Idul Fitri is a celebration of faith, gratitude, and of joy. It’s been my experience that people everywhere celebrate those three things in different ways.
To coin a phrase from my Thai friends – we’re all “same same but different.”
When we, as a people, accept that we’re never going to be the same – never going to live by the same set of principles – no matter how much we bully and intimidate each other, we can move forward in finding sustainable ways to live happily together.
I don’t profess to know all the steps from where we are now, to a world of harmony and peace, but I do know the first step must be respect.
Travel if you can – meet more of the people you’re sharing the Earth with. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
What is 1431 H?
It’s the Islamic year.
Many people don’t realize there are many calendars in use around the world – the Gregorian calendar that is most commonly used in international commerce is not the only one. The Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Baha’i are among those who follow their own calendars.
The abbreviation “H” means Hegira, or flight to escape danger.
It’s a lunar calendar – each lunar month begins when the crescent of the new moon first appears, which is why the crescent moon is the symbol of Islam.