Representatives from the National University of Singapore Catholic Students’ Society pose with Muslim students as they break their fast. Photo by Darren Boon
SINGAPORE – Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is nothing new to Deanna Koh, but the 20-year-old Catholic just fasted a whole day for the first time, in connection with the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
The second-year National University of Singapore (NUS) medical undergraduate and five other student representatives from the NUS Catholic Students’ Society joined hundreds of Muslim students to break fast on Sep 3 on the campus grounds.
The spread included bread, rice, prata, a fried flat bread, curries and colorful traditional Malay cakes. During Ramadan, Muslims refrain from all food and drink, even water, from dawn to dusk.
Deanna had a sandwich for breakfast and drank only water during the day.
Damien Poon, 22, a second year arts undergraduate also fasted from food and drink except water. He treated the effort as a “Catholic fast, but with the consciousness that I was expressing solidarity with the Muslims”.
The NUS Muslim Society invited the non-Muslim students to join them in fasting in order to have an experience of Islamic culture and better understand the religion. It also hoped to encourage and promote interreligious harmony.
The Catholic students saw similarities between the two faiths with regard to fasting.
Damien noted that both faiths regarded fasting “as a means towards strengthening our relationship with God”.
Deanna remarked, “We both believe that fasting sharpens our ability to reject our desires.”
Following the meal, the Catholic students joined the Muslim students in their nightly prayers.
“It wasn’t just an observational exercise, but a fully participative one in which we fasted together and offered praise and supplication to God by joining in reciting the salat after the evening meal,” Koh said.
She described the experience of praising God along with the Muslim students as wonderful, calling it especially beautiful to prostrate oneself before God and offer one’s service.
“For me it was a reminder of the awesome nature of God,” she said.
Deanna also said she had an opportunity that day to share with some Muslim girls on Catholic beliefs, especially the concept of the Holy Trinity. She hopes she can faithfully represent Catholics and the belief that one “needs to love one another as Christ has loved us”, regardless of religion.
By Darren Boon