Catholic Ramadan in Senegal

Keen to show repentance and self-denial as their Muslim compatriots, Catholics in the predominantly-Muslim West African nation of Senegal are increasingly embracing a Ramadan-style fasting during the Christian lent period.

Catholic Ramadan in Senegal

Keen to show repentance andself-denial as their Muslim compatriots, Catholics in the predominantly-MuslimWest African nation of Senegalare increasingly embracing a Ramadan-style fasting during the Christian lentperiod.

"We sacrifice, pray, and we do good deeds toshow our devotion to Jesus," Marie-Simone Mbengue, a tailoring schooltrainee, told Reuters on Wednesday, March 21.

She is fasting for the 40 days of Lent on the Muslimway of observing the holy month of Ramadan.

The period of Lent precedes the central Christianfeast of Easter and commemorates the days Christians say Jesus Christ spent inthe desert.

Some Christians observe Lent by abstaining from meaton Fridays. Others only limit the total amount of food they eat in a day.

But for Catholic Senegalese, Lent took a differentform as they abstain from all food and liquid during the day and eat only onemeal after sunset.

"I feel free within myself. I feel good becauseI'm doing this for God," said Yolande Sarr, a high school student in thecapital Dakar.

"You don't even feel like eating."

Muslim Influence

Father Jacques Seck, a prominent Senegalese RomanCatholic clergyman, said the Ramadan-style fasting is a recent development.

He added that Senegalese Catholics have started thepractice because they want to show they are as serious in their faith asMuslims are in theirs.

Professor of Islamic Society Abdoul Aziz Kebe saidsome priests explicitly give the Muslim example to their congregations.

He had heard "one of my friends ... tellingyoung Christians that it is important for them to try to be as serious as youngMuslims during the fasting time, during Ramadan, and in the manner ofrespecting Friday prayers."

David Frankfurter, religion professor at the University of New Hampshire, argues that sometimestraditions pass subconsciously, and people are not even aware they have beeninfluenced.

"It's not so much someone decided, 'Oh let'suse Ramadan practices to make sense of Lent."

He insisted that for Christians "thesepractices don't seem in any way Muslim; they seem like this is the way peopleengage with a sustained period of time when you're supposed to denyyourself."

Islam is the predominant religion in the formerFrench colony, practiced by approximately 94 percent of the country's 11.7million population.

The Christian community, mostly Roman Catholics, isestimated at 5 percent.


The Islamic Lent trend sets an example of theoverwhelming religious harmony in Senegal.

Ndeye Binta Lo, a sewing instructor in Mbengue'sschool, says she sometimes fasts for a day or two during Lent in solidaritywith her Catholic friends.

In the religiously and ethnically mixed country,Muslims usually invite Christians to share their holiday celebrations and viceversa.

Frankfurter, who has studied the impact of religionson each other, said different faiths usually intermingle freely.

"Even if one's family becomes Catholic, they'relinked through many community connections to many, many Muslims," he said.

Senegal has a secular constitution and the government celebratesboth Christian and Muslim holidays.

For Lo, the equation is very simple.

"We grew up together," she said. "Weare together."


Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16