August 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Guests listen to the Ramadan message of Dr. Abdullah Khouj, director of the Washington Islamic Center, during Iftar at the Embassy of Sri Lanka, Washington, D.C.

The Sri Lankan Muslims community in greater Washington area particpated in prayers. Dr. Abdullah Khouj, director of the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., lead Iftar prayers during a service at the Sri Lankan Embassy, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Abdullah Khouj, director of the Washington Islamic Center (left) meets with Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya at the Sri Lankan Embassy’s Iftar to celebrate Ramadan in Washington, D.C.

Sri Lankan Muslims gathered with diplomats and U.S. State Department officials Wednesday at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C., to celebrate Iftar — the breaking of the fast — as part of a ceremony to commemorate the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan 2011.

The Iftar prayer service was led by Dr. Abdullah Khouj, director of the Washington Islamic Center, and also Mr. Naseer Azeez, a Sri Lankan-American. Both offered remarks on the meaning of Ramadan and the importance of fasting and discipline.

The ceremony was attended by a cross section of the Sri Lankan community in the Washington area and included Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese Sri Lankan-Americans.

“It is wonderful news to hear that there is security, there is peace,” Dr. Khouj said of the current situation in Sri Lanka. “Peace and stability are the heart’s desire of every human being, of every community, of every society, of every country. And we believe as Muslims that it is a gift from above.”

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya brought the gathering up to date on the current situation in Sri Lanka.

“Ramadan is a time of forgiveness,” Ambassador Wickramasuriya said. “We must look to our brothers and sisters in peace, forget the past and focus on the future. This is so important for Sri Lankans because we have been through so much.”

Mr. Naseer Azeez spoke about the significance of fasting during Ramadan, noting that, “unless one believes in the fundamental beliefs of Islam, you cannot be committed to your obligatory religious acts such as Fasting in the month of Ramadan.”

When guests broke the fast at 8:02 pm, they took part in a prayer service and then enjoyed a sumptuous meal of biryani, curries, rice and fruit.

The Iftar celebration was the latest in a series of events the embassy has held to celebrate the significant religious events for each of Sri Lanka’s main religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.