Pesach, Easter and Ramadan

Sent On: 
Sat, 2019-04-20
Newsletter Number: 

The Jewish feast of Pesach started yesterday and ends Saturday April 27. Pesach is the feast of the liberation of the people of Israel from Egypt in the days of Moses. Yesterday was Good Friday in Western churches, remembering the day Jesus died on the cross in Jerusalem. Tomorrow Western churches celebrate Easter, the feast of the resurrection of Jesus from the death, showing that God is stronger then death. These celebrations are a week later in the Coptic Orthodox Church. Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims, starts on May 5 and probably ends on June 4.


These different feasts have important meanings for the different religious communities, they give sense to life and encourage the believers of the different communities. We therefore would like to wish our Jewish, Christian and Muslim readers a blessed time. It is good we understand the importance of these feasts for the different believers. We should respect that other believers may be comforted through different traditions.


But what do these celebrations mean for non-believers? The Dutch weekly Elsevier showed in its April 20 issue, that organized Christianity in Europe is in decline.


*) Elsevier does not present the percentages of regular church attendees in Portugal, Denmark and Estland. They neither present the percentages of the population that is in favor of the separation of religion and state in Greece, Poland and Estland. But because the religiosity in Greece and Poland is so high one can presume that the percentage of the population in these countries that is in favor of the separation between religion and state is very low.


It is obvious that Greece is the most religious country of all EU countries and Estland is the least religious. Religiosity is for many citizens strongly linked to national identity. This is not very different for most believers in Muslim countries. This means a mix between faith and culture.

Elsevier writes that organized religion may be in decline but many traditional Christian values such as compassion are kept. This is often described as “believing without belonging.” Former church members no longer want to be told by church authorities what they should believe but this does not mean they are entirely without any belief.


The burning of the Notre Dame in Paris has resulted to strong responses. Some Islamists have claimed to see the hand of God in this burning and have expressed joy over this. Also some Christians have seen the hand of God in this as a sign to return to traditional Christian values. Believers often see the hand of God in history but depending on their faith background give different interpretations.


The decline of organized religion in Europe is not typical for Christian churches only. One also finds this among Jews and Muslims with increasing percentages of members who no longer worship on a regular basis but yet will participate in the celebrations of important religious occasions such as Pesach, Easter and Ramadan.


Understanding the meaning for these celebrations therefore remains important, if we want to live in a multicultural world in which we respect our neighbor.


April 20, 2019


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor in Chief of Arab-West Report