WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 15, 2013) — The Department of Defense celebrated its 15th Iftar meal, July 12, at the Pentagon.
Attending the event were senior defense leaders, White House and congressional staffers, foreign dignitaries, defense attachés, imams, Gold Star families, and Muslims who work in the defense community.
“The month of Ramadan focuses on a lot of things,” said Col. Thomas Waynick, the Pentagon chaplain. “Among them, focusing one’s heart away from worldly activities, the cleansing of one’s soul to free it from harmful impurities, and the practices of self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice and empathy, especially with the less fortunate, and thus encouraging generosity and charity. These things are common to many of the world’s religions.”
In 1999, the Pentagon Chaplain’s office first hosted such a dinner to show solidarity with and support for the Islamic community. They have been doing so each year since.
Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Muslim, was the guest speaker at this year’s Iftar meal. he lawmaker spoke about serving humanity. Serving others by tutoring, visiting shut-ins, volunteering time to feed the homeless and building relationships with people less fortunate will help change America, Ellison said.
Those in attendance at the Pentagon Iftar were not all Muslim. Steven Redmann, executive director of U.S. Army Headquarters Services, said that though he is not Muslim, he was able to learn from the congressman’s message about service, and find common themes that aligned with his Catholic faith.
At the Pentagon, approximately 30-40 Department of Defense personnel make up a core group of Muslim worshipers, Waynick said.
Across the Army, there are more than 1,600 Muslims, said Lt. Col. Claude Brittian, the deputy Pentagon chaplain. He said that number is not exact, however, because many Muslims do not declare their religion for fear of being ostracized.