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Christians offer a neighborly 'Blessed Ramadan' to Muslims

At Pilgrim Congregational Church, parishioner Kane Tewes adapted the Minnesota Council of Churches idea and printed out a sign for the church's large sandwich board. Parishioner Harlan Stech labored to put the sign together in the cold and rain on Sat., June 4. Seen here are Jim Brower, Rev. Jennifer Amy-Dressler and Jackie Falk. (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)1 / 2
A sign wishes Muslims a Blessed Ramadan near the busy intersection by First United Methodist (coppertop church). (Photo by Naomi Yaeger)2 / 2

At a busy intersection at the top of the hill near First United Methodist Church, thousands of vehicles on Skyline Parkway pass by a small blue sign with white letters stating, "To our Muslim neighbors Blessed Ramadan."

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. It is observed by fasting from dawn to dusk, prayer and good deeds and celebrating with family and friends. This year it began on June 6 and will continue 30 days.

"The sign is an effort to simply say, 'Blessed Ramadan' to our Muslim neighbors," said Rev. David Bard, pastor of First United Methodist (coppertop church). He said anti-Muslim rhetoric is prevalent at the national level, though he hasn't seen it in Duluth.

I thought it was sort of a nice idea," said Geoff Bell, a member of First United Methodist. "I work with a guy across the hall who is a very devout Muslim and he is always wishing me a happy Easter and merry Christmas, so I thought it was a fair exchange."

The yard sign is part of a campaign organized by the Minnesota Council of Churches (MNCC).

"From neighborhood hate crimes to campaign rhetoric, we see negativity directed against Muslims," the MNCC said in an email. "But that is not who we are in Minnesota. We are a welcoming, caring, respectful community."

The MNCC is made up several Protestant denominations including Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians.

Sue Anderson, of St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Superior Street, said she has ordered signs and they will soon be along the street at her church. She is the chairwoman of the Understanding and Dismantling Racism Committee at the church, as well as the parish secretary.

"We want to be welcoming to all our neighbors," she said.

A large sandwich-board sign, wishing Muslims a Blessed Ramadan, first was placed during the rain last Saturday and now stands on along the street at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2310 E. Fourth St.

"Our plans are to have the signs up for as much of the month as we can," Rev. Jennifer Amy-Dressler said. She is the interim minister of the church.

She said a member of her congregation learned about the signs and within 24 hours the church had one up on Saturday.

Jackie Falk was the congregant who brought the signs to the attention of the church. "The biggest reason I really wanted to do it is I am genuinely concerned about the hate speech in the election," Falk said. "It's an affirmation our cousin in faith's holiday."

For more information visit blessedramadan.org.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at www.DuluthDailyPhoto.com.

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