Ramadan – the holy month of fasting for Muslims worldwide – is approaching. This is a month of religious devotion, charity and remembrance of those less fortunate than ourselves. Muslims abstain from eating and drinking (amongst other activities) during daylight hours in remembrance of the poor. For many of us, no matter hungry you feel, you know you will eat at sunset. Yet imagine not having anything to break your fast with. Imagine every day being a constant struggle. Many people – Muslim and non-Muslim – around the world are suffering due to poverty, natural disaster, war, persecution and much more. In your very home town, there may be those who go to work hungry, having fed their children but gone hungry themselves as there’s not enough food to go around. You may switch on the TV and thousands of miles away you may see starving refugees fleeing war. People carry on suffering and aid donations are all the more essential, both locally and internationally. Additionally, there are various Muslim (and non-Muslim) groups who continue to be persecuted, discriminated against and even killed. Whether victims of war or persecuted religious minorities, many face difficulty in finding safe shelter and in practising their religion.
So whilst Ramadan starts and we wish fellow Muslims “Ramadan Mubarak” (Happy Ramadan), let’s remember the following people and causes (in no particular order) and call one another to action.
1. The Syrian crisis
Muslims, Christians, Yazidis… millions of Syrians have and continue to suffer due to the Syrian crisis of civil war and religious extremism. Rape, torture, starvation, bombing…the suffering is ongoing. For the displaced Syrians still inside Syria, those living in controlled areas and the millions of Syrian refugees who have fled Syria, the situation in Syria is sad, complex and shows no signs of being resolved any time soon.
You can help by donating money and resources to provide aid both in Syrian and in refugee camps. You can also read more about Syria through my interview with Syrian-Palestinian asylum seeker Khaled – click here.
2. The conflict in Yemen
The Saudi bombings and the Sunni-Shia conflict in Yemen – already the poorest country in the Middle East – have led to more instability for this nation in which men, women and children are continuing to suffer. The war has been going on for over a year and so far more than 3000 civilians have been killed:
[…] the conflict in Yemen […] continues to take a terrible toll, with more than 3000 civilians killed, and 5700 wounded, since it began a year ago. If the violence and fragmentation continue, the people of Yemen face a very bleak future. The war has devastated an already weak infrastructure, with multiple attacks on hospitals and schools. It has opened vast opportunities for groups such as Al Qaeda and so-called ISIL to expand their grasp. Most tragically, the ongoing political unrest, violence and air strikes have created a massive humanitarian crisis. This could trigger refugee flows, further destabilising the region.
The lack of public uproar against the Saudi led bombings is deafening and shocking. Innocent children are starving and the world remains shockingly quiet.
To get involved and help innocent Yemenis:
- Sign the following petitions calling to end the violence: Oxfam, MoveOn
- Donate: your help can provide essential aid for the Yemeni people
For more information on the war in Yemen, see:
3. The Palestinian crisis
Palestinians face immense ethnic, cultural and religious discrimination, manifesting itself in great difficulties in attending school, water and electricity shortages and high rates of unemployment.
You can support the Palestinians in many ways:
- Support the #CheckTheLabel campaign: make sure you check the label when buying dates to break your fast – pick dates from Palestine or elsewhere in the MENA region. You can order the campaign leaflets via the Friends of Al-Aqsa website to hand out at the mosque and raise awareness amongst fellow Muslims and interfaith activists when attending events etc. You can also share the message via social media – get tweeting, posting and sharing!
- Donate: you can donate to provide essentials such as food and school supplies
- Campaign: check out the range of campaigns on the Friends of Al-Aqsa website
- Petition: sign the following petitions via Go Petition, Azaaz and Change.org
4. The persecution of Rohingya Muslims
Whilst the media has gone rather quiet, the persecution of the Rohingya people – “the most persecuted refugees in the world” – is ongoing. A report by The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic (Yale Law School, October 2015) concluded that the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar constitutes genocide:
The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State have suffered serious and persistent human rights abuses. Myanmar authorities, security forces, police, and local Rakhine actors have engaged in widespread violence, acts of torture, arbitrary detention, rape, and other crimes causing serious physical and mental harm. The scale of these atrocities has increased precipitously since 2012. […] the majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya have been confined to villages in northern Rakhine State or internally displaced persons camps. […]conditions in both northern Rakhine State and the IDP camps are dire: Rohingya lack freedom of movement, access to food, clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care, work opportunities, and education. They live in conditions that appear to have been calculated to bring about their destruction. The acts committed against the Rohingya, individually and collectively, meet the criteria for finding acts enumerated in the Genocide Convention […]
Persecution of Rohinyga Muslims: Is Genocide Occuring in Myanmar’s Rakhine State? A Legal Analysis, p64
To help this persecuted minority, you can:
- Donate: donations provide much needed aid and make all the difference
- Raise awareness: you can become an advocate for the cause – see Partners Advocate
- Petition: check out Mohamed Amin’s guide and sign the Avaaz, United to End Genocide and Burma Campaign UK petitions. A list of other petitions is available via Go Petition
For more information, check out:
- “Myanmar’s shame: Living inside the Rohingya ghettos” (CNN)
- “Rohingya people: the most persecuted minority in the world” (Amnesty International)
5. The oppression of Uyghur Muslims in China
China’s Muslim minority, the Uyghur community who live in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, have been facing increasing discrimination over the years. The Chinese State has banned face veils, forced certain shopkeepers to sell alcohol, introduced restrictions on beards and in the past banned fasting during the period of Ramadan. This year, the State has declared that there will be no restrictions regarding Ramadan – yet one can never tell given the secrecy and human rights abuses that go on in China.
How you can help:
- Learn more about the issue: Twitter is an interesting start – check out Voice of Uyghurs and Muslim From China. See also the World Uyghur Congress website (this includes a recently published report on Uyghur refugees and asylum seekers)
- Raise awareness: blog, tweet and post. Raise awareness within both Muslim and non-Muslim communities
- Donate: you can support Uyghur Human Rights Project
- Petition: petitions are available via Change.org here and here
6. The war in Ukraine
If you’d like to help towards the crisis in Ukraine you can:
- Select United Help Ukraine as a charity of your choice on Amazon as part of the AmazonSmile programme to give donations
- Check out Ukraine Freedom Fund‘s Action Plan and the following tips
So there’s six causes that we are all aware of and of course there are many other worthy causes, many groups facing persecution and many more campaigns and petitions. This is simply a brief guide to current urgent and perhaps not so well publicised causes which we can all help towards.
So – brothers and sisters in Islam: Ramadan Mubarak!
And to all readers: check out the tips and get going!
Feature image: Amila Tennakoon (Flickr)