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Published: Saturday, 9/4/2010

St. John's Jesuit students share fast with Muslims in show of solidarity

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Senior Jimmy Kimerer, right, breaks his fast for Ramadan with classmates at St. John's Jesuit High School in Toledo. The Mediterranean meal was served buffet-style. Senior Jimmy Kimerer, right, breaks his fast for Ramadan with classmates at St. John's Jesuit High School in Toledo. The Mediterranean meal was served buffet-style.
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Going without food or water for 14 hours on Wednesday was not easy, but it was doable, Zach Oberhaus said.

But repeating that 14-hour fast for 30 days in a row?

“I don't think I could do it,” the sophomore said with a wince.

Zach, 15, was one of about 80 students at St. John's Jesuit High School who took part in a one-day “fast-athon” this week to support their Muslim classmates at the Catholic school who are observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

It also was a fund-raiser to help flood victims in Pakistan.

During Ramadan, Muslims worldwide abstain from food and water from before dawn until after dark. The holy month, which is based on a lunar calendar, moves through the months of the Gregorian calendar on a cyclical basis. The 14 hours of daylight for Ramadan, which started Aug. 11 when the sun rose at 6:40 a.m. and set at 8:40 p.m., are among the longest ever. Wednesday's fast-athon was the third year for the event at St. John's and it drew the largest participation yet, said Moiz Hasan, a senior and one of the organizers.

“The goal is to spread some religious tolerance around,” Moiz said. “And at the same time, fasting is a primary aspect of all religions.”

The school's Muslim and Christian students, along with a handful of adults, broke their fast together in the cafeteria with a buffet-style Mediterranean meal from the Grape Leaf restaurant.

Admission was a $5 donation with about $500 raised for the Pakistani flood victims.

About a dozen of St. John's 800 students are Muslims, said the Rev. Tom Doyle, St. John's vice president of Jesuit identity.

Father Doyle gave a 20-minute talk during the meal, offering a Catholic perspective on fasting. It has been part of Christian tradition for millennia, and was stressed during Advent and Lent, with the popularity of Friday fish fries as evidence of widespread abstinence from meat. But the practice of fasting in Catholicism has been “lessened” since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, he said.

He said Christians can benefit from looking at Islam's strong emphasis on fasting, a form of spiritual training that teaches self-control and which follows Jesus' example.

Dr. S. Zaheer Hasan, a spokesman for the United Muslim Association of Toledo and father of St. John student Moiz Hasan, gave a short talk exploring some of the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity. Mary, the mother of Jesus, he said as example, is held in high esteem in both religions. She is the only woman named in the Qur'an, and an entire chapter of the Muslim holy book is devoted to her, Dr. Hasan said.

Joining students at the all-boys Catholic school were several girls from Notre Dame Academy, including longtime best friends Shazli Khan, a Muslim, and Amanda Martis, both 17-year-old seniors.

“I think it's awesome because you guys aren't even obligated to fast,” Shazli said to the non-Muslim students at her table.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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