This week represents the first week of the Muslim fast of Ramadan. Based on the lunar cycle, the Muslim calendar has only 354 days, so the month of Ramadan comes 11 days earlier than the year preceding. Millions of Muslims around the world will be fasting from dawn until sunset, denying themselves not only food, but water, medicine, tobacco, and sexual relations during those hours. Once the sun sets, Muslims break their fast with a huge meal, usually a festive family time.

I can remember breaking the fast with one family in Palestine years ago, as we all gathered around the table in their dining room. A radio in the corner blared out the prayers of the sheikh (religious leader) who would indicate the moment when we could all begin eating. I couldn’t understand the Arabic, but they were all poised, literally with one hand over the piece of food they were going to grab first, as the sheikh chanted out the prayers. All the sudden, the father nodded his head at the family, and they grabbed the food like starving wolves. I wasn’t fasting, so I wasn’t nearly as hungry as they were, and I was no doubt more reticent due to my “company manners” as a guest in their home. I hung back and let them load their plates to their fill and then I ate heartily with them, albeit much less and at a slower pace. But I will never forget that moment of anticipation, frozen around the table, as if waiting for the starting gun to signal that the race was on!

The month of Ramadan is one of great spiritual warfare. Some Muslims believe that the devil is limited during Ramadan; therefore, they claim to have a greater spiritual freedom and success during their period of fasting. Unfortunately, the month of Ramadan is marked by violence and crime, due in part to the physical and emotional strain of not eating, smoking, etc. and also in part to the financial strain of having to provide large, lavish family meals, as well as expensive gifts at the end of the month.

There are thousands of Christians who pray during Ramadan, using the programs like www.30-days.net which is an intercession program specifically for Muslims during Ramadan. Others use different approaches in their intercessory prayer, but however you pray, I hope that you will remember this people group who need Jesus to deliver them.

In other news: It’s funny how taste buds change. When I was a child I was a picky eater, and over the years (mostly due to living abroad), I have learned to enjoy more varied foods. I find that even things I once hated can grow on me. My first year in Israel, I didn’t care for hummus, which is practically the national staple, but by my sixth year there, I would absolutely crave it sometimes. Even typing this now, I would pay good money for some true, Palestinian hummus (and not that stuff at the grocery store in the US that they call hummus!).

Here in France, I have become addicted to French bread. Now, I admit, I never hated it in the first place, but I suppose I tolerated it. I couldn’t see the big deal that others made about it. Now, my mouth salivates at the thought of having a baguette. Lately, though, I have been seriously cutting back on my carb intake, and that means no bread! I walk a route through my neighborhood every night, and I’ve discovered that you can’t walk a square mile in France without passing a bakery or six people who just walked out of one, their arms full. Oh, the temptation!

Ariel Rainey