BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - While Americans are celebrating liberty, freedom to live, to speak, and to worship as we please, even with racial and religious tensions rising, another holiday is being celebrated simultaneously: Ramadan.
While the rest of the neighborhood sleeps, Emrah and Yasemin are busy in the kitchen preparing Bazlama, or Turkish flatbread.
It's just after 3:30 when she serves Sohoor, the pre-dawn meal of Ramadan.
"We wake up every night in the middle of the night to have breakfast, something light," says Emrah. The Ceyhans are just one of nearly a billion Muslims around the world who will not eat or drink from sunup to sundown this Ramadan season, which typically lasts about a month. It is a time of fasting, intense devotion, and worship for Muslims around the world.
"We submit our souls, our body to God," says Yasemin. "It is not just staying away from food and drink. It is more than that. When you fast, every part of your body is fasting," says Emrah.
The call to prayer signals the end of Sohoor and time to study the Guran and to pray. Emrah says, "We take it for granted, these bounties that God has given us. God is helping us become aware of his bounties and appreciate them."
For the Ceyhans and many Muslims around Louisiana, this Ramadan is a little different. "Normally, I get up at 4:30 and I pray the liturgy of the hours," says Stephen Brunet, a Catholic resident.
At St. Jean Vianney Church, a small group of Catholics are preparing for another meal. Brunet says, "It's probably the most important thing I'll do all day."
They read from the bible, pray, and take the bread of life, the body of Christ before they begin their day. "It is my chance of getting a chance to commune with the Lord, have a personal conversation and relationship with him," Brunet also says.
As the sun sets, both faiths come together to break the Ramadan fast. "People thirst and hunger for the justice, for food, for water, for love," says Fr. Tom Ranzino, a Catholic priest.
It is part of a project sponsored by the non-profit, Atlas Foundation. The hope is to find common ground between the two faiths and cultures, to promote understanding and dispel fears. Emrah says, "Sometimes, we focus on our little differences and we cannot create a friendly conversation, but when we talk about what we have in common, we have a very fruitful conversation."
It begins with the call to prayer, then a Turkish meal. "This is soup, you know, traditional soup. It's delicious," says Yasemin.
Ranzino says, "I really hope this little bitty gesture helps people see and breaks down stereotypes that we have about each other."
"Unfortunately, human beings are biased. We are biased by culture, but news media, by the messages we take in. I went to Ramadan meal with an open mind, to say, 'Hey maybe what I see on television is not everything about the Muslim faith,'" says Brunet. Emrah says, "As we get together more and more, and as he or she finds out about our culture, our religion, their perception changes."
Brunet closes, "I think this is the beginning of something that can be built upon. I believe that breaking Ramadan might be an annual event here."