Contributing Editor to Imams Online, Nadeem Ashfaq of the Preston Faith Forum, recounts his trip to Calais to deliver aid to the refugees. He embarked on this journey with Christian and Jewish faith leaders from Preston in an effort to show that humanitarian work is not just the responsibility of a single person or single faith group, but rather enshrined in the teachings of all major faiths groups.
The following accounts are brother Nadeem’s own reflections and experiences from the trip.
Bis-millah / In the name of God, who gathered Hearts together.
What an incredible 4 hours loading up our Van.
Just set off for Calais, France with my friends; Jeremy and Rob, faith leaders representing the Jewish and Christian communities in Preston to deliver Aid gifted generously by the beautiful people of Preston, and Businesses who have rallied around together in an outstanding show of unparalleled unity with those suffering around the world.
Thank you to EVERYONE involved; my colleagues at the Preston Faith Forum for supporting our idea, the leaders at the Preston City Council for their guidance, and the Mosques, Churches, Temples, and Synagogues for allowing their places of worship to be used as drop of points for peoples Aid.
All of your AID will be delivered with the sincere Love that it has been given with.
Please pray for the success of our visit, and safe return home, and importantly that we fulfil the rights of serving the most unfortunate in the World with the honour, dignity and love they deserve, as a way of thanking God for the countless blessings in our lives.
Experiences and Thoughts in Calais
Amid the sweltering heat in Calais yesterday and when hunger and frustration was evident on the faces of those lining up for food, the brother in the blue hat made me smile.
He kept peoples hopes and spirits alive by singing Praises Upon the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.
May Allah bless him. Such amazing people with high levels of faith, despite the horrible conditions they find themselves in.
We were so blessed to meet a respected elder/leader, also a poor refugee living in a tent at the camp. Other refugees come to him for advice and guidance. He is a true leader, constantly looking out for others.
He was so delighted that a Muslim, Jew and Christian (my friends pictured on the right) had travelled from the UK in unity to deliver Aid, and in doing so served us throughout our meeting with beautiful tea.
He reminded of the Prophet Muhammād ﷺ, who served the Christians and Jews who would come to see him.
Thoughts and Reflections on Return to the UK
Returned home safely with my Jewish and Christian friends Jeremy and Rob delivering Aid after an eye opening, and heart wrenching experience in the “Jungle”, otherwise known as the Refugee camp in Calais, France, which ‘houses’ or should I say ‘prisons’ around 8,000 people fleeing war and corruption in their own lands.
These people do not want to be here at all, but have no other viable options available, except ending their own lives in frustration. This is the unfortunate, sad and harrowing reality of many living in the “Jungle”
It is a blemish on our history, and no doubt will be recorded in our history books, and debated amongst many generations to come that ’21st century Western Europe’ took to ignore the plight of suffering human beings overtaken with grief, and torn with sadness.
It is catastrophic beyond any human comprehension, that innocent men, women and children, like you and I, members of the same human family, with ambitions, feelings and souls are having to resort to living conditions designed for no living creature, with no help of support or hope from the ‘powers to be’.
If it was not for the magnificent, brave, selfless and utterly kind hearted charities and people working in these makeshift Camps day in, day out supplying a regular chain of foods, medical supplies, and the all compassionate and important shoulder to cry on you would literally find people eating each other in a sheer mark of desperation, as well as throwing themselves under moving trains to end misery they seem to find themselves in, at no fault of their own.
Yards from entering the camp you could feel the general mood of desperation and frustration. Within moments of introducing ourselves to the awaiting refugees, with the intention of forming an orderly que, our van was suddenly surrounded by over 40/50 hungry and angry refugees, with some looting our goods. This was expected, and can always be expected to happen.
We were able to quickly with the help of other refugees restore the situation to levels of calm. There is no excuse for violent behaviour, but there is always an explanation that can never be ignored for the way people behave: Every voice is important and should be heard.
– When you strip innocent people from their basic Human rights, to even have the the most simplest of things, such as food, then you will find people fighting for their basic rights.
– When you deploy Riot police to provoke Refugees by waving riot batons in the air, and charging towards them with no legal reason to do so, in order to cause fear, then you will find confrontation in ways that they only been accustomed to.
The world often forgets that this a Humanitarian crisis affecting not just Muslims, but everyone. There are both Muslims and non Muslims refugees living in these camps, side by side in peace, helping each other achieve some type of peace amidst the horrible conditions they find themselves in.
These people are not trouble makers at all, rather the most creative, kind and dignified people you will ever find, committed to peace and charity like the rest of us. We were honoured to bring some little comfort to the lives of people. They thanked us enormously with hugs and prayers and requested that we thank the many people in Preston and beyond for their love and concern.
We must never forget them, or give up on their struggle for freedom and opportunity for a new beginning.
We are already planning another visit from Preston, Lancashire, looking at more strategic ways of bringing a long term and sustainable plan of peace to Calais and other refugee camps scattered across Western Europe.
Thank God for each and every blessing In your life, and continue to keep the poor and unprotected in your prayers.
By Nadeem Ashfaq