Bangladesh Finds Christian & Muslim Unity in Abraham
In Bangladesh this past weekend, Christians extended the banner of peace to Muslims celebrating Eid al Adha, or The Feast of Sacrifice. Every year during Eid al Adha Muslims practice “Korbani,” the sacrifice of animals, in commemoration of Prophet Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command. The ritual is a beautiful expression of God’s mercy, generating an environment of peace enveloping whole communities in a unified outpouring of celebration and generosity.
In something of a mystical paradox, the ritual of Eid al Adha encompasses both sacrifice and generosity. Although God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his firstborn son, immediately He provided Abraham with an animal substitute after confirming Abraham’s dutiful submission. Abraham and his son sacrificed the animal together and returned home to celebrate God’s mercy with a delicious feast for the community.
In the Muslim’s annual celebration of this sacrifice and feast, they are likewise obeying God’s command. The sacrificial animal is carefully butchered and the meat is divided into three portions. One third is for the immediate family of the person(s) who purchased the animal. Another third is distributed to the purchaser’s extended family, and the last third is distributed to non-family members from among the poor and needy in the community.
A Merciful Unity Offered by Bangladesh Christians to Muslims
In Bangladesh this past weekend, the Muslim Eid al Adha enjoyed an even broader environment of peace and mercy. On behalf of many Christians, the President of the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue offered his kind greetings to the Muslim community. “All of us, Christians and Muslims, respect the prophet Abraham,” said Msgr. Bejoy D’Cruze OMI. “In this common admiration we have to find a way to love one another.”
Msgr. Bejoy, who is also the bishop of the diocese of Sylhet, Bangladesh, continued, “One of the greatest teachings of this festival is love for siblings, relatives, neighbors, the poor and vulnerable. For this, the korbani provides for the division of the animal into three parts: one for oneself, one for the family and the last to the most needy. A lot of people think that, through the killing of the animal, envy, lust, selfishness, and greed are also defeated”.
A Time of Great Appreciation for God’s Mercy
Eid al Adha occurs at the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, a journey Muslims are required to make at least once in their lives. The Quran specifies the ritual sacrifice performed by those on Hajj, and is observed by those at home on this same day, as well.
If not on Hajj, most Muslims gather at mosques for a special congregational prayer and sermon. Afterwards, many Muslims seek out a farm where an animal sacrifice can be performed, or meat is sacrificed at the farm and delivered to the mosques. Others also send money to relatives in their homeland to help purchase a sacrificial animal. The wearing of new clothes is encouraged, children are presented with gifts, and families spend most of their time visiting one another and presenting meat to everyone.
In Bangladesh, as in many countries, Eid al Adha lasts for up to three days and is a time of great appreciation for God’s mercy. Instilling such a happy environment of selfless generosity within communities where poverty and hunger often ordinarily abides is truly a mystical mercy and a very wonderful occasion to both celebrate and give God thanks for.
Promoting Peace That Brings “A Smile to the Face of the Weakest”
Bangladesh is no stranger to interreligious strife. However, in the merciful environment of selfless generosity, Christian friendship truly enlightened this year’s celebration of the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice. I believe our common ancestor and patriarch, Abraham, the friend of God, would be well-pleased with his extended family.
Promoting peace between Christians and Muslims of Bangladesh, Msgr. Bejoy focused on shared doctrines. “We both strongly believe in one God and respect Jesus and Mary,” the bishop of Sylhet said in his interfaith message to Muslims. “We believe in the prophets, in the Scriptures, sacrifice, forgiveness and the well-being of the other. Our two forms of spirituality have a deep bond and we should practice them to stop wars and conflicts, and to make sure that peace can bring a smile to the face of the weakest”.
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