Muslims around the world are currently fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. However, there are some Christians in the United States who are participating in this event as a form of solidarity.
According to Tamara Audi of the Wall Street Journal, Christian pastor Jeff Cook of Colorado has never been inside a mosque nor had close Muslim friends. However, he is fasting during Ramadan as part of an effort by American Christians to better understand and support Muslims.
"I'm fasting to remind myself there's people all over the world that matter to God who embrace Islam," Cook said. "I want to remind myself and my culture that we can have a different posture in our hearts toward those who embrace Islam."
Cook posted a picture of himself on Twitter holding a sign. He noted that "it's been tough" adhering to fasting for Ramadan, where Muslims cannot eat or drink anything during daylight hours.
"I'm Jeff-A Christian in America. I'll be fasting in solidarity #Christians4Ramadan," Cook wrote.
Audi cited a recent Pew Research Center survey that found Americans had more negative feelings toward Muslims than any other religious group, even though Muslims only make up 2 percent of the U.S. population. According to Audi, Cook and other Christians decided to participate in Ramadan after some American Muslims participated in the Christian tradition of Lent, which lasts for six weeks and involves sacrifice.
"That movement took off on social media; Muslims posted photos of themselves with handwritten signs saying what they were giving up for Lent-everything from Lucky Charms to shopping-using the hashtag #Muslims4Lent," Audi wrote.
Muslim college student Faria Akram, 22, of Texas thought both social media movements were "a great way to bridge the gap between religions." She told the Wall Street Journal that during Lent this year, she gave up drinking Coca-Cola.
"I really love soda. It was hard," Akram said.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Akram made it for 25 days without drinking soda. However, her resolve broke down after she had to take some medication with the only liquid available, her sister's Coke.
"I definitely value the practice of Lent. I feel like it's something inherently good," Akram said.
As for Christians who fast during Ramadan, Audi reported that some Christians have criticized the practice, asking how others can claim to follow Christ while adhering to an Islamic ritual. One Christian who initially received some criticism was Quaker Anthony Manousos, 66, of California, who stated his wife "had a little trouble" with his fasting during Ramadan.
"Once she understood I was doing it to be a better Christian, she thought that was nice," Manousos said, adding that his decision to fast "is all inspired by the simple Christian command to love thy neighbor and love thy enemy."