By: Eastern Eye Staff
BRITISH Asians, led by the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities, have embraced the season of goodwill by providing clothing, food and advice to those in need this festive period.
Several initiatives have been taking place, from London to Iraq, where charitable organsiations have been collecting supplies to feed the homeless and provide clothing to vulnerable Yazidi women who have fled Daesh (the Islamic State group).
Ravi Singh, the founder of Khalsa Aid, a humanitarian organisation which works in disaster areas and conflict zones around the world, will be working in refugee camps in Iraq on Christmas Day, handing out warm clothing to children and women who were rescued from Daesh.
Along with a team of volunteers, Singh will be in the region for three days and is hoping to raise the plight of the Yazidi community this year at Christmas.
Khalsa Aid is also teaming up with an organisation which helps to provide a hot cooked meal to those without a roof over their heads on Christmas Eve.
Singh told Eastern Eye: “Festive periods are very important because we always talk about getting inspired by faith and god; we want to practise what we talk about. With charities like ours, it’s important to get other people inspired and join us. Giving and sharing makes us more human.
“There’s no better time to launch something than this time of year. A lot of people come forward when we do homeless projects. Let us play a positive role in society and inspire our own community to be globally involved.”
Singh regularly risks his own life travelling to some of the most dangerous places in the world and has been helping hundreds of Yazidi families since 2014 who were forced from their homes because of the brutal war against Daesh.
“It breaks my heart that such a small community are being totally forgotten,” he said. “They are a minority and they are not thought about. Girls who have escaped after being kidnapped come to the camps and we try to give them some dignity through Project Dignity with monthly food rations and clothing. It’s very fulfilling to raise a voice for someone and inspire others, it makes you a useful human being.”
The festive spirit has also been shining bright closer to home. In London, hundreds of worshipers from East London Mosque in Whitechapel collected a staggering 10 tonnes of food for the homeless.
They gathered at Friday prayers last week (16) with supplies including rice, pasta and tinned goods, which were handed over to the charity Crises and will in turn be distributed to the destitute.
The mosque has been a regular target of the far right group Britain First, who have held several demonstrations outside the place of worship.
Dilowar Khan, executive director of the mosque, said: “It was heart-warming to see so many people bringing food to the mosque and a good sign of our common humanity. We need to build on this and make sure that we support those less fortunate all year round.”
Fiyaz Mughal is the founder and director of Tell Mama, which works on issues including integration and countering extremism and Islamaphobia.
He told Eastern Eye it was extremely positive for groups like the East London Mosque to build bridges in the community by donating items of need during periods of heightened attacks against Muslims.
“At times when there’s an increase in fear and the rise of the far right in Europe, minority communities need to be reaching out at all levels, so we welcome these moves.
“We are seeing more Muslims providing donations at Christmas, and this sends out a really positive message that the cultural traditions of our country are to be supported and not negated.
“Christmas is not just about Christianity, it’s a time for all of us to come together.”
Britain’s Hindu’s have also been spreading Christmas cheer at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan temple in north London by collecting jackets, jumpers and jeans for Crisis, which will be distributed among people on the streets.
It has also teamed up with the charity this year, which is setting up 10 centres during the final weeks of December to provide food, health care, advice and clothes.
Yogen Shah, a volunteer at the temple, said: “At any time of the year, it’s very important to remember others. At this time of year, when it’s so cold and people don’t have heaters and the same comforts that we have, why not do something for others?
“After all, our guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj said: ‘In the joy of others, lies our own joy’.”
In Huddersfield, Christmas cheer is spread all year with the Suffah Foundation’s Welfare Project, which was launched in February. It brings businesses together to help the poor and refugees from war-torn countries, providing food and household items to families each month. Wasim Akhtar from the Suffah Foundation, said: “Extra emphasis is placed to help those in need during the Christmas period because of the cold winter which threatens the lives of the poor and homeless.
“We hope the provision of warm clothing and hot meals, during a time which is otherwise known to bring families closer together, will add a little warmth to their lives.”