What do non-Christian communities do during the Christmas festivities? Muslim Laiq Ahmed Atif and Hindu Gilbert Mohnani tell Sarah Carabott they will share the same spirit and even the same activities as the Maltese.
“We believe the message of all prophets sent by God is the same: love God and serve humankind,” Laiq Ahmed Atif says from his office.
“The details and guidelines are different, but in essence the message is the same. Every road leads to the same message: love God and serve humanity.”
Mr Atif is the president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta, which is an Islamic reformist movement founded in the 19th century. It encapsulates a few million people in more than 200 countries.
Six years ago, Mr Atif was asked to emigrate to Malta to be the president of the Ahmadi community here.
Every road leads to the same message: love God and serve humanity
“As Muslims we respect founders, prophets and messengers of all religions, and we show respect by joining in celebrations,” he says.
Just as they do on Muslim Holy Days, such as the Feast of Sacrifice, around Christmas time Mr Atif’s community visits homes like id-Dar tal-Providenza and St Vincent de Paul bearing gifts.
This Christmas the community expressed solidarity with the staff and children at Fejda and the St Joseph Home in Santa Venera.
“We don’t traditionally celebrate Christmas, but when we live in another country we respect the traditions and culture of that country. Through our visits to these vulnerable people we hope to extend the message of love. We want them to know there are people who care about them.”
The community also exchanges greetings with State representatives, the Church, neighbours, and anyone they have come across, so the list gets longer every year.
In following local tradition, the community prints its own Christmas cards with a message of love.
On Christmas Day, Mr Atif’s family-of-four exchanges greetings with neighbours and friends.
Sometimes they visit people they know will be alone on the day, taking with them clothes or food, according to their needs.
“The satisfaction you feel when you give or do something for someone else cannot be described in words.”
Although Muslims do not celebrate Christmas like the Maltese, they dedicate their early morning prayers to Jesus’s message, asking God for strength to follow his teachings. When it comes to the Hindu community in Malta, some Indian families join Maltese ones for Christmas Eve Mass and then gather with their relatives for Christmas lunch.
Gilbert Gordhan Mohnani, who is a member of the Maltese-Indian Community, was born in Malta to Indian parents.
A practising Hindu, he studied Christianity when he sat in for religion classes.
“I believe that in general religions are similar. The destination is the same one, it’s just that we reach it from different places,” he says.
Mr Mohnani has been married to Roshan, who moved to Malta from India, since 1993. She too joins him and their two daughters, who are 16 and 17 years old, for Christmas Eve Mass.
Just like him and his wife, the daughters attend a Church school.
“Since we live in Malta, we adapt ourselves to the country, and this includes learning about the culture and religion,” he noted.
Tonight, Mr Mohnani’s family will join their friends for Christmas Eve Mass, and after enjoying the service, without receiving the Host, they will join them for a meal.
Then tomorrow they will gather for lunch with their relatives.
Christmas for the Mohnani family is a “family thing at home they put up the Christmas tree and exchange gifts.