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12 March 2024

What does Ramadan look like for Christians in Syria?

Christians can experience Ramadan differently. Here, some Christian women share how they interact with their Muslim colleagues, neighbours and friends during the Islamic holy month. 

Two women walk past a market stall in a street in Syria.

Ramadan can be a tricky month to navigate for Syrian Christians (image is illustrative)

The Muslim holy month of fasting, Ramadan, began earlier this week (10 March). Traditionally, Muslims will fast during daylight hours, abstaining from all food and drink (including water). For Christians living in Syria, where Muslims make up 97% of the population, their experience of Ramadan can differ.  

Most Christians respect their Muslim neighbours and try to be cautious about eating or drinking around them, but sometimes believers can find themselves under scrutiny or harshly treated. 

Discriminated at work during Ramadan 

Ward* is a 35-year-old Christian woman from Aleppo. She works in an office and shares, “For me, Ramadan is the month of getting into fights and being insulted by my manager. He is fasting and therefore fighting his addiction to cigarettes. He often comes to my office and picks up a fight with me over nothing. Anything sets off his anger.”  

Last Ramadan, Ward’s employer gave her more work to do, as he claimed that anyone not observing Ramadan fasting could handle more jobs. But Ward was still not allowed to eat or drink in the office in front of her colleagues to avoid offending them.  

“After all that, I didn’t receive the money gift that was distributed to the entire company,” Ward says. Usually, companies give employees a bonus before Eid al-Fitr, the festival at the end of Ramadan to celebrate breaking the fast. When Ward asked why she was denied the gift, someone bluntly told her, “It’s prohibited to give al-Fitr money to infidels!” 

Judged for eating and drinking in public 

Reem* (25) from Damascus also struggles during Ramadan. “Most of my classmates and neighbours are Muslims,” she says. “We need to pay attention to our habits during this month.” 

It’s not easy. On one occasion, she forgot it was Ramadan and drank water in the middle of the street. Everyone around her glared at her – Reem felt humiliated. “I bowed my head down and hurried away.” One man quoted the Quran at her as she passed, calling her ‘sinful’.

Most Christians in Syria try their best to mind their neighbours, so they try to avoid eating or drinking in public – not that there are many places open during the day in Ramadan. Food shops only open sometime in the afternoon, and restaurants open about half an hour before sunset and stay open till after midnight to accommodate the fasting majority. 

Reem’s mother had a similar experience while purchasing food. “One Ramadan, my mum was buying spices in the old market in Damascus at the beginning of the fasting month, and she didn’t know it had started,” Reem says. “So, she took a little of the cumin and tasted it and that made the seller so angry as he felt disrespected, and he refused to sell her any.” 

Christians provide a welcome refuge  

In some areas of Syria, where fasting is not so strictly observed, Christians may find they are more welcome during Ramadan.  

Sarah*, a 21-year-old university student from Aleppo, says, “I love Ramadan a lot. During this month I feel so special as some of my Muslim university friends will hang out with me because they can eat and drink in my presence without the condemning looks of their fellow Muslim students.”  

“Whenever someone wanted to smoke a cigarette, he would go to my office to do it,” shares Sarah’s older sister. 

Please pray
  • For Christians like Ward who are abused and discriminated against during Ramadan, that God will protect them
  • That Christians in Syria will be salt and light to their Muslim neighbours, showing them the love of God
  • For Muslims as they pray and fast, that in seeking Allah they would find Jesus.
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