Breaking the fast – and bread – with all faiths
Spiritual Care Department honors Muslim tradition of Ramadan with inaugural luncheon on Heart Hospital terrace
It was just before 1 pm on a work day, when Kamran Javed noticed something in his inbox that made him sit up straight in his office chair.
A company-wide email flyer featuring a photo of colorful lanterns resting on a bed of sand with dawn breaking in the background completely took the senior digital marketing developer for Baptist Health by surprise.
The flyer went on to describe the meaning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that runs from late May to late June, and ways to observe the sacred Islamic tradition at his workplace.
To top it off, the flyer announced that a special post-Ramadan celebration known as Eid al-Fitr, or breaking of the fast, was being scheduled at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville.
“I felt very excited,” said Javed, who has been with Baptist since 2012. “I’ve never experienced anything like that since I’ve been working here at Baptist.”
A Pakistan-born Muslim who emigrated to the U.S. in 2011 and recently celebrated his first anniversary as a naturalized American citizen, Javed was one of several team members who attended the inaugural Inter-faith luncheon to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The two-hour event, hosted by the Spiritual Care Department, was held at Baptist Jacksonville’s Heart Hospital terrace overlooking the St. Johns River.
The free luncheon included a buffet of Mediterranean cuisine, and a huge serving of appreciation for an often-misunderstood faith.
“We at Baptist Health recognize what a special time of year Eid is for Muslims around the world as you mark the end of Ramadan,” said the Rev. Patricia McElroy, executive director of the Spiritual Care Department at Baptist. “Today, as you, our Muslim sisters and brothers, celebrate Eid, your team members of other faiths and traditions celebrate you.”
Mohammad Ilyas, MD, a pediatric nephrology specialist at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, told the gathering that Muslims like himself fast during Ramadan to fortify their faith. “While your body grows weak, your soul gets stronger,” he added. “Fasting is a way to restrain oneself. During this time, you are supposed to close yourself off, and control your desires and physical needs.”
During Ramadan, which ended June 24, 2017, Dr. Ilyas said Muslims fast for nearly 15 hours; from before dawn till after sunset. Javed said many Muslim men like himself give a percentage of their earnings to family members and the poor. They also read the Qur’an daily and pray at the mosque as much as possible.
Tabletop displays about Ramadan were set up in the main corridor of Baptist Jacksonville and in the lobby of Wolfson Children’s. “We received a lot of positive feedback; even from members of the community,” according to Hugh Greene, president and CEO of Baptist Health, who attended the Breaking of the Fast event, along with numerous members of the Spiritual Care Department, including chaplains interning in Baptist’s summer-long Clinical Pastoral Education Program.
Baptist Health president emeritus Bill Mason, PhD, and his wife, Juliette, were also in attendance. Prior to his career in healthcare, Mason traveled the world for the U.S. Agency for International Development, with stops in eight different countries, including Yemen.
When he first laid eyes on the hospital displays celebrating Ramadan, Mobeen Rathore, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and the founder of the University of Florida’s Center for HIV/AIDS Research and Education, was ecstatic.
“It was overwhelming for me to see the displays, both in Wolfson Children’s and in the adult hospital. That’s something that’s never been done here before,” said Dr. Rathore, who emigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1991 and co-founded the Muslim American Special Services clinic in Jacksonville in 2010.
“Hopefully, other hospitals will follow suit. Baptist is always on the cutting edge. It takes courage to lead.”