Syrian refugees long for happier Ramadan

by Jedediah Smith, posted Friday, July 17, 2015 (3 years ago)

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (BP) -- For many who escaped from the violent civil war in Syria, this is their fifth Ramadan in a foreign country. Families in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan are going through a challenging time as they recall happier Ramadan holidays in Syria.

Ramadan, which ends today (July 17), is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

This season is often known for family gatherings when Muslims will prepare a table with abundant food and celebrate together as the sun sets. However, the civil war has taken away those happy moments for these Syrian refugees.

Ahmad,* a 60-year-old Syrian man, misses the days when his family was together. He said with tears, "I was able to escape from Syria, but my daughter's family is still there."

The civil war took away not only the joy of family celebrations, but also their cozy and secure homes. Seven years ago, Abu Badr* built a large house in his hometown with the money he made from more than a decade of hard work in Africa. But he had to flee Syria with empty hands when the civil war broke out, and now he lives in the dusty, windy conditions of Zaatari.

The desert sun is merciless on the refugee tents in the camp, and the heat has been excessive during this summer Ramadan season. The refugees suffer through the heat without electrical power from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., which leaves them without fans or refrigerators during the hottest times of the day.

A 10-year-old refugee girl who came to buy two dollars' worth of green beans at a small grocery store was asked, "What do you eat during iftar [the evening meal that breaks the fast after sunset]?" She answered, "We can eat only boiled vegetables mixed with rice without any meat," and ran away.

Syria was once called "the breadbasket of the Middle East," but Syrians in refugee camps now identify with hunger instead of abundance. They receive monthly food vouchers from the United Nations, but this assistance is not adequate for many refugee families. There are certainly no resources for enjoying the Ramadan feasts they remember from years past.

Pray for those who are going through this difficult time. Pray those who long for happy family moments, safe homes and abundant tables will have an even greater longing for a relationship with God. Pray they will have opportunities to hear the Gospel.

The International Mission Board is working to see families and lives restored through the transformative power of the Gospel message. For more information on how to offer relief to refugee families, go to imb.org, click "Give," then "Give strategically," and scroll down the page to the Syrian Crisis Response project. Or, learn about the Syrian crisis by taking this quiz.

*Name changed. Jedediah Smith is an IMB writer and photographer based in the Middle East.
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