Supporting Refugees During Ramadan
Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims globally. During this month, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day for 30 days as an act of worship, a way to practice self-discipline and a period to empathize with the needy and less privileged. Every evening in the holy month, Muslims break their fast with a meal known as ‘iftar’.
Apart from being a fast-breaking meal, iftar plays a vital role in balancing health and nutrition. Unfortunately, in a world where 11.7% of the entire global population experiences extreme food insecurity, millions of Muslims often have no food to break their fast with. Food insecurity is a major issue affecting refugees and displaced people who rely on donations and aid to access food. In a bid to alleviate the issue, charities like Restless Beings are supporting refugees during Ramadan by providing them with iftar meals.
Restless Beings is a U.K.-based human rights organization that is making efforts to address food insecurity during Ramadan. Through distributing food packages in nations with high numbers of refugees and displaced people, such as Syria and Bangladesh, it provides iftar meals for Muslims around the world.
The Borgen Project spoke with one of the directors of Restless Beings, Rahima Begum, to find out more about the organization’s food packages and other ongoing efforts aimed at supporting refugees during Ramadan.
In 2023, Restless Beings is distributing food packages in Gaza, Turkey, Syria and the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. The content of the food packages varies for each nation depending on dietary requirements and cultural sensitivities. According to Rahima Begum, “As Restless Beings is a highly consultative organization, we ensure that at all stages, we speak to the community about their needs and what they want in their food packs.”
For example, the packages for refugees in Bangladesh include food items such as rice, chickpeas, lentils, vitamin supplements, oil, onions and seasonings. These are all staple items in a typical Bangladeshi diet. In Gaza and Syria, the packages include tea, pasta, beans, feta cheese, dates and bulgar. The Turkish food packages include most of the aforementioned as well as olives, tahini and ingredients for making traditional Turkish bread. Each food package contains enough to feed a family for at least one month.
The food packages are distributed by the organization’s on-the-ground teams. As of April 2023, Restless Beings has provided food packages and other forms of assistance to over 50,000 refugees globally.
Feeding Refugees in the UK
For Restless Beings, supporting refugees during Ramadan in the U.K. is just as important as supporting refugees abroad. It partners with other organizations that specialize in assisting refugees and migrants arriving in the U.K. to provide occasional free, warm iftar meals throughout Ramadan. It also donates baked snacks, including bread and pastries, which refugees can take away. The service is not exclusive to only Muslims, as Restless Beings is committed to helping refugees from all religious and cultural backgrounds. The organization is affiliated with two food banks in East London, both of which provide free or discounted food to the homeless and those affected by extreme food insecurity.
Gifting Presents and Haircuts
Restless Beings is supporting refugees during Ramadan in ways other than providing food. It also aims to restore joy and hope in the lives of refugee children. Many of the children that Restless Beings works with have witnessed extreme violence and experienced severe political conflict and displacement. This has stripped them of their fundamental human right to safety and deprived them of their childhood.
The organization is making efforts to give children something to look forward to while encouraging them to believe that there is hope for a better future. It gifts children in the Rohingya refugee camps hampers, new clothes, shoes and fresh haircuts to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the day that follows the end of Ramadan. For Rahima Begum, the gifting service is of utmost importance because it bestows a sense of normalcy and dignity on the recipients that aids their emotional healing. She says “When a child is reminded of their dignity and given an opportunity to feel and look fresh… this child feels like they are seen, heard and most of all, valued.”
– Mohsina Alam.