Immigrants And Refugees
Immigrants and Refugees

NYC Interfaith Leaders Come Together for Ramadan Meal on Staten Island

Cardinal Dolan Joins the Imam Tahir Kukiqi to address the gathering
Cardinal Dolan Joins the Imam Tahir Kukiqi to address the gathering

By Peter Feuerherd

Staten Island — Much of New York’s political, religious and law enforcement leadership came together here April 4 to mark the celebrations of Ramadan, Easter and Passover in an interfaith display of solidarity at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center.

The major feasts of all three religions arrive this year at around the same time on the calendar.

A unifying thread among the faiths is the spiritual exercise of fasting. The April 4 interfaith event culminated in an Iftar celebration marking Ramadan, a month-long period during which observant Muslims fast from all food and liquids through the daylight hours. The fast is traditionally broken at sunset by an often festive meal.

“Fasting is something natural,” said Imam Tahir Kukiqi of the Islamic Cultural Center, noting the long tradition in the three Abrahamic religions. “In getting closer to God, almost everyone fasts,” he said, noting that the practice is also a part of Buddhism and Hinduism.

Speeches, laced with light-hearted banter about the expense of the island borough’s Verrazano Bridge tolls, continued until sunset, when Islamic practice allowed for the breaking of the daily Ramadan fast.

“God bless America and God Bless New York City,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in his address to the gathering, which attracted hundreds, including New York City police commissioner Keechant Sewell, Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, and city comptroller Brad Lander. Among those represented were leaders of the Jewish community, including Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, and police chaplains Msgr. Robert Romano and Rabbi Alvin Kass, the oldest NYPD officer, who has served the department for more than a half century.

The cardinal, looking over the gathering, said the event was emblematic of New York City, a place, he emphasized, “where Jews, Christians and the Islamic community work together” to address common issues amid wide diversity.

The annual event, which was not held due to Covid concerns over the past two years, began as a suggestion offered by Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Director of Catholic Charities, noted Imam Kukiqi. Msgr. Sullivan was among those in attendance at this year’s event.