Catholic rector offers open-air church for Muslims to break Ramadan fast together safely

The fasting period of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world is a both an individual and communal observance. For the individual, it's a time to grow closer to God through sacrifice and detachment from physical desires. For the community, it's a time to gather in joy and fellowship at sunset, breaking bread together after abstaining from food and drink since sunrise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited group gatherings in many countries, putting a damper on the communal part of Ramadan. But for one community in Barcelona, Spain, a different faith has stepped up to make the after sunset meal, known as Iftar, as safe as possible for the Muslim community.

According to Reuters, Father Peio Sanchez, Santa Anna's rector, has opened the doors of the Catholic church's open-air cloisters to local Muslims to use for breaking the Ramadan fast. He sees the different faiths coming together as a symbol of civic coexistence.


Every evening, volunteers serve a home-cooked Iftar dinner to between 50 and 60 Muslims, many of them homeless, in the open-air stone passages of Santa Anna Church.

The space was secured by Faouzia Chati, president of the Catalan Association of Moroccan Women. She was seeking a venue for Muslims to gather to eat and pray, and Father Sanchez provided a welcoming

"People are very happy that Muslims can do Iftar in a Catholic church, because religions serve to unite us, not to separate us," Chati told Reuters.

Father Sanchez's commentary on the cooperation between the two faith communities illustrates what's possible. "Even with different cultures, different languages, different religions, we are more capable of sitting down and talking than some politicians," he said.

Hafid Oubrahim, a 27-year old Moroccan who attends the dinners concurred. "We are all the same... If you are Catholic or of another religion and I am Muslim, that's fine. We are all like brothers and we must help each other too."

While there is no shortage of conflict between religious groups—in addition to conflict within religious groups—we have countless examples of interfaith cooperation that offer a vision of religion as a source of unity. Every major religion has its version of The Golden Rule, which presumably extends to people of all faiths, not just one's own. Treating others the way we'd like to be treated is exactly what we see when we see stories like this. A Catholic leader offering a safe space for people to gather and worship, which is undoubtedly what he would want if his congregation were in the same boat. Muslim adherents expressing gratitude for the gracious offer, which is undoubtedly what they would appreciate happening if they made a similar offer. What a lovely example of the Golen Rule in action.

Religion can be used as an excuse for discord and disunity, but it doesn't have to be. When we look for shared values and seek to build bridges instead of walls, religion can be a tool that brings people together—even people with diverse beliefs and practices.

Whether it's offering a space for worship or fellowship, offering holiday greetings to people of other faiths, or even offering your body as a shield for people under threat for their religious affiliation, we can each be good neighbors to one another regardless of our spiritual traditions. Especially in a time when we are all experiencing a global pandemic that has made gathering in communities harder than usual and reminded us of how interconnected we truly are.

When we practice the most basic universal teaching of all faiths—treat others the way we ourselves would want to be treated—we create the world we all want to live in. Thank you, Father Sanchez and the Muslim community you're serving, for the beautiful reminder.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter, U.S. Department of State

It takes a lot to push a career diplomat to quit their job. A diplomat's specialty, after all, is diplomacy—managing relationships between people and governments, usually with negotiation and compromise.

So when the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, whose "diplomatic experience and demonstrated interagency leadership have been honed directing several of the United States government's largest overseas programs in some of the world's most challenging, high-threat environments," decides to resign effective immediately, it means something.

Daniel Foote, who was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July of this year, explained his decision to quit in a strongly-worded letter to Secretary of State Blinken. His resignation comes in the wake of a wave of Haitian migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border and widespread reports of harsh treatment and deportations.

"I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life," he wrote. "Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own."

Foote went on to describe the dire conditions in Haiti:

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