Chaplains provide support to Djiboutian Iftar Feast

Story and Photos by Senior Airman Scott Jackson, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa

U.S. Army Spc. Ahmed Azhar, an infantryman from the 10th Mountain Division, prepares a prayer rug in during an Iftar celebration at the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of DJibouti’s house in Djibouti, May 21, 2018. The U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti, Larry André, opened his home to celebrate two Iftars, one run by the Defense Attaché Office for senior Diboutian Military and security leaders, the second for senior government, diplomatic, and business leaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Jackson)

CAMP LEMONNIER, DJIBOUTI — U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti Ambassador Larry André and his wife opened their home May 21 and 22 to host two Iftars the evening breaking of the fast celebrated by Muslims during the month of Ramadan.

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Meaning “burning heat” in English, Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar. During the month, Muslims are called to fast from sun up to sun down. To eat before the dawn is partaking in Suhur, to eat after the sunsets is partaking in Iftar. Suhur and Iftar take place every day during Ramadan. Muslim communities around the world celebrate Iftar by providing food for the homeless and poor and everyone eats together.

On the first night, André hosted a Defense Attaché Office organized Iftar for leaders of Djibouti’s armed forces and security services, representatives of the Attaché Corps, and deployed military personnel. The second night’s the guests included senior Djiboutian government officials, ambassadors, and local business leaders.

Before guests broke the fast with dates and watermelon, Spc. Ahmed Azhar, an infantryman from the10th Mountain Division, called the faithful to prayer signifying the end of the day’s fast. Cmdr. Abduhena Saifulislam, the Deputy Command Chaplain for U.S. Africa Command, then Muslim visitors outside for prayer.

Afterward, Americans, Djiboutians and other guests shared a meal featuring both traditional Djiboutian and American food.

“Ramadan Kareem,” said André, in a speech. “I would like to convey to you, in this holy month of Ramadan, the best wishes of the American people, my colleagues from the U.S. Embassy, my family who are here with me today and myself. For many, this month is a time of reflection on the highest values of your faith, on spiritual development, forgiveness, patience and resilience, compassion for the less fortunate and the unity among communities. This sacred time reminds us of our common obligations to maintain dignity of every human being. It is a time of the year to help the less fortunate. This year, I am happy to break the fast with you here in Djibouti.”

Welcoming Saifulislam, André said, “He came to Djibouti to help us celebrate Ramadan and to talk about Islam in the United States, and how we can all come together from different backgrounds to create a peaceful and harmonious world. We are so happy to have him here in Djibouti.”

Saifuislam then thanked the guest and the Ambassador. “In the Hadith, it says when a person feeds someone fasting, they gain the rewards of the fast,” he said. “So, Mr. André is good.”

“We are grateful to the AFRICOM chaplain office, CJTF-HOA religious affairs team, and our Kentucky state partnership program director and senior leaders for the opportunity to visit Djibouti during their holy season of Ramadan,” said Col. Yong Cho, the state chaplain of the Kentucky National Guard, Djibouti’s partner under the State Partnership Program . “During our visit we attended two Iftars to observe and participate in this age-old tradition. These events allowed us to interact with multinational military and civilian leaders as well as religious leaders. This visit is a small stepping-stone toward a broader path of forming lasting relationships. Together we can build partnerships that increase the quality of life for the Djiboutian people.”