Minnesota Army National Guard leaders are packing an unexpected item when they head to their annual training camp next month — a lawn sign displaying the words “To Our Muslim Neighbors: Blessed Ramadan.”
The blue signs, part of a campaign launched by Minnesota Council of Churches three years ago, also will be showing up at several thousand churches, individual homes and educational centers across the nation to mark the expected first day of Ramadan May 15.
The campaign’s popularity, including media coverage from as far away as Indonesia, has caught the council by surprise. So did the request by the Minnesota Army National Guard last year for some signs to display at their headquarters — the first such request from an armed service group.
“It’s an opportunity to demonstrate that we support our soldiers, of all religious traditions,” said National Guard Chaplain Philip (Buddy) Winn, who will post a sign at Camp Atterbury in Indiana for the annual training event next month.
“We’re extending good will — from our tradition to yours,” he said.
National Guard Sgt. Alkali Yaffa, one of about 50 Muslims in the Minnesota Guard, called the signs “wonderful.”
“Those signs mean that people are celebrating with us,” Yaffa said. “They may not be fasting, but they are remembering.”
The Minnesota Council of Churches launched the Blessed Ramadan campaign in 2016 not knowing what to expect. But the presidential campaign had sparked anti-Muslim sentiment, and this was a visible way for the public to show their support, said the Rev. Jerad Morey, a council programs director.