Eid ul-Fitr for Muslim Newcomers: Bethany YMCA, CAIR Oklahoma, and Bethany Public Library

Afghan girls at Eid ul-Fitr Festival

On a breezy, sunny, and cool late Saturday afternoon in April 2024, hundreds of men, women, and children gathered at the Bethany YMCA to celebrate a religious holiday. The YMCA is no stranger to hosting such events, including an annual holiday party during the Christmas season. For the past two years, the Northwest Oklahoma City YMCAs, in partnership with CAIR Oklahoma, have expanded their service into the community by hosting an Eid ul-Fitr celebration for Muslims from Afghanistan and Syria who have resettled in the Oklahoma City Metro area.

Beginning in fall 2021, Muslim newcomers from Afghanistan began arriving in Oklahoma through a federal program called Operation Allies Welcome, a large-scale evacuation effort of individuals and their families who supported the United States military in Afghanistan. Oklahoma received the third largest number of Afghan newcomers (over 1800) during the 6-month period September 2021 – February 2022; 1007 Afghans resettled in the Oklahoma City Metro area, and 800 to Tulsa and Stillwater. Since then, several hundred additional refugees from Syria and Afghanistan have relocated in the OKC Metro area.

Eid ul-Fitr is a festival that celebrates the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a 30-day season of daily prayers, financial donations to those in need, and fasting from food and drink from dawn to sunset. To mark its significance, Muslims celebrate Eid ul-Fitr with communal prayer, feasting, gift-giving, and charity. It is one of the most important holidays in the Muslim community. This celebration at trusted, local community organizations that seek to know and serve all their neighbors is a true sign of welcome and the Oklahoma Standard.

For some families, this is their third Eid ul-Fitr celebration in Oklahoma City, and for others, it is the first time to celebrate the holiday in a new country. Each year, CAIR Oklahoma has partnered with community organizations to provide a place for Muslim newcomers to celebrate this important holiday. In a partnership between CAIR Oklahoma, Catholic Charities and The Spero Project, the May 2022 Eid celebration took place at a hotel where most Afghan families were living while they awaited more permanent housing solutions. By April 2023, most families were living in local apartment complexes, and the YMCA at Rockwell Plaza hosted the event, providing transportation for those most recently moved into new homes. The event was such a success the YMCA wanted to partner again in 2024 at their Bethany location!

Bethany YMCA

Taylor York, NW District Executive Director

Taylor York, NW District Executive Director of YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, was thrilled to Partner with CAIR Oklahoma again and to co-host the event at the Bethany YMCA. “To me,” York said, “this event is so special because we have the chance to provide a wonderful Eid celebration for our Afghan friends and neighbors at absolutely no cost to them. The event is free to all and by doing so, all three organizations get to continue to be beacons of hope for our communities. Any time we have a chance to come together to love, serve, and care for those in our community, that is a win. And to see the smiles and pure joy on the face of the families makes it the most rewarding experience. We have a chance every day at the Y, at the library and at CAIR Oklahoma to change lives for the better and this event changes hundreds of lives for the better in one single night. That is powerful and for the Y, helps us fulfill our mission of being able to be a mission driven organization who is FOR ALL in our community.”
The Bethany YMCA has a large property, and older kids enjoyed the beautiful weather playing soccer and cricket as younger kids explored three different bouncy houses.

Waseem Ahmed
from Kebabish Bites

Bethany YMCA also had plenty of indoor space for guests to enjoy a delicious meal catered by Kebabish Bites in Norman.
The Bethany Public Library, directly north of the Bethany YMCA, is a frequent partner for YMCA events and joined the effort by serving as the storage and staging area for goody bag distribution and site for the volunteer meal. They also provided a popular indoor activity – a cart full of books for kids to enjoy, to showcase their language skills to volunteers, and to learn new words.

CAIR Oklahoma has welcomed Muslim newcomers to the state since Operation Allies Welcome in August 2021. You can learn more about ways we supported new Oklahomans at the CAIR Oklahoma Refugee Services website.

If your organization would like to support Afghan neighbors, CAIR Oklahoma can help you reach your goals! Email Jen Hund (jhund@cair.com) to learn more.