Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.
The value of interfaith dialogue is severely limited if it mainly involves academics discussing abstract issues unconnected with struggles for social justice. An exciting further step is to stand in solidarity with people of other religions in the struggle for social justice. Interfaith cooperation must include standing in solidarity with the oppressed, together resisting oppression,asking each other for forgiveness, and embodying in our relationships the seeds of the new social order for which we pray.
The Qur’an repeatedly prompts Muslims to give in charity. In the Qur’an, we read the following verse:
Those who spend their wealth [in God‘s way] by night and by day, secretly and publicly – they will have their reward with their Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve. (Al-Baqarah 2:274)
It is important that rich Christians, Muslims, and Jews, with all their financial, political, technological and military power, not become an alliance of the powerful over against the powerless, thus negating the heart of the three religions rooted in the Biblical and Qur’anic calls for justice based on the oneness of God. Sadly, many Abrahamic people already have made alliances with injustice.
(Help you one another in Al-Birr and At-Taqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety); but do not help one another in sin and transgression) [Al-Ma’idah’, 2]
On Human Solidarity Day today, Rava shares the three stories of solidarity that are inspiring enough to make us think twice about our decisions in life.
“I thought I would never work in my life!”
Maha is from Damascus and she is 30 years old, whereas half of her years she is married! Maha and her husband have five beautiful children, two girls and three boys. All of them arrived at Greece, to the island of Leros, in October 2016; few months later, in February 2017, the team of SolidarityNow welcomed the family to the accommodation structure of Tilos.
“Life is beautiful here. I like the island. In Tilos it is not like the other hosting structures. Before I came here, I was afraid, because I knew how it is to be on an island. As soon as we left the ship, the members of SolidarityNow greeted us with a warm “Welcome!”. Then I started to live normally, an everyday life I had forgotten. We went shopping, we chatted with the organization’s personnel. I felt a tenderness; it is like these people were and are here to surround us with a warmth, exceeding their work.”
Maha learns Greek and English, attending the lessons that take place in the premises of the Tilos accommodation structure, and she admits that the Greek language is harder for her.
Currently, Maha is working as a hotel maid on the island and she describes this experience with enthusiasm: “This is my first job. In the past, I thought I would never work in my life! Now I’m working and I feel my life has changed. The job is a good thing for women and especially for the women from Syria. Now I don’t only sleep and eat, I have a purpose, I have something to do, I have a job. Now, I’m offering things to my family, not just my husband. We both work for the future of our family. Before I was an ordinary woman, I didn’t have anything else, now I have, I get to know people from other countries, I see how life is. I learn new things every day.”
She then refers to her husband’s difficulty in accepting her work, “because in Syria women do not work.” Now things have changed, since Maha manages to combine her role as a mother and as a successful worker, and her husband is not only happy but proud and he congratulates her!
Maha speaks warmly and with gratitude for her employer and stresses that she feels great since he treats her equally; as he treats to the Greek employees of his – “she speaks to me in the same way“. Today, Maha and her husband have decided that they want to stay in Tilos because “our relations with the locals are very good and now that we are working we feel we can start our life from the beginning!”
L. walks with difficulty. She presses her hand against the wall to be able to stand and continues her walk. Few weeks ago, she couldn’t even stand on her feet. I told her to stand by me. L., 38 years old, comes from Pakistan. The last few months she has been living at SolidarityNow’s shelter for vulnerable cases in the center of Thessaloniki.
L. had the strength and courage to travel by herself to Greece. I am asking her about her life in Pakistan, but she doesn’t want to talk about her past. So, our discussion focuses on her recent adventure with her health.
L. suffered from unexplained and sudden seizures. For a long time, she didn’t know what was happening to her. She had episodes in which her contact with the environment was preserved. “I believed that an evil spirit had taken hold of me,” she explains us. From Nea Kavala refugee camp, where she was living, she was hurriedly moved to SolidarityNow’s shelter for vulnerable cases in the center of Thessaloniki and then to Papanikolaou Hospital, where she underwent a brain tumor surgery. The surgery was successful, but she had to be immediately transferred to a rehabilitation center. A real big race started then. “We didn’t know if we could proceed, and most importantly who is going to pay the rehab center. At the beginning, I was pessimistic,”, says Maria Georgopoulou, Social Officer at SolidarityNow’s Hosting and Accommodation Programs in Thessaloniki.
Despite the difficulties and time pressure, L. with Maria’s help and SolidarityNow’s financial support went to the Rehabilitation Center “Armonia”. There, through physiotherapies, she gradually regained her motor skills. Maria didn’t leave her alone. She accompanied her to the hospital, she gave her anticoagulant injections, and she supported her in other occasions as she couldn’t look after herself. At the beginning L. was feeling lost. It is not an easy thing for a single woman, who does not speak the Greek language, to be alone in a foreign country and to undergo such a serious surgery. When she came to SolidarityNow’s shelter she started to feel better. “Three months have passed, but still there are more things to be done not only by her but also by me. There is no room for complacency”, says Maria.
L. is a strong and courageous woman. “God gives life and can take it again. This was a trial for me. I died, and I came back to life. I feel grateful to God, and to SolidarityNow and Maria! “, she underlines. Her health has been improved. We ask her how she imagines her life in the future. “At the moment I’m staying at the shelter until I get better, but I’m very anxious about what will happen next. Where will I go, what will I do? What I really want is to feel better, to learn Greek, to find a job and start and normal life in Greece” she tells us. We ask her if she wants to start her life all over again. She answers “that the only thing that she wants right now is to be back on her feet”.
A family of three, shares its story with us – “we want to talk“.
Zachia and Abdullah are the parents of 7-year-old Younes and one more underage son, who already is in Sweden. They await the decision that will reunite the family; and the young Υounes looks forward to the moment he sees his beloved brother again.
However, Zachia and Abdullah are particularly reluctant and afraid. They have gone through many difficulties in order to arrive in Greece and furthermore until eventually reaching the accommodation structure for refugees and migrants in Elefsina. The couple’s origin is from Afghanistan. From there they began their refugee trip in pursuit of a decent life. Iran was their first stop. Unfortunately, in Iran, things proved even harder.
“I felt like we did not have a place to live there – being a refugee means being invisible. You are not recognized by anyone, people do not see you. We had no papers, home, security“, Zachia confesses. Zachia is just 35 years old, and the stories of her adult life sound like the stories of a much older woman. Now, she is happy with the fundamentals, as she says – grateful for being alive, she and her family after the hard trip from Iran to Turkey, then Samos. Zachia has no great expectations for the future, she only wants her family to reunite intact.
Until then, she awaits in agony – and perseveres. A Swedish proverb says, “Do not celebrate before you cross the stream (Man ska inte ropa hej, förrän man är över bäcken)“. This is Zachia’s motto. So, she awaits. On the other side of the stream her child waits for her.
Abdullah is more optimistic, he believes everything will be better for his family in Sweden, “I am 100% certain that everything will go well there“.
Still, life goes on in the accommodation structure of Elefsina, completely filled by their 7-year-old child, Younes. The youngest of the family participates in the activities SolidarityNow agents uphold through the Blue Dot Unit operating there. Through Junes, Zachia, although hesitant, dreams again and smiles at the end of our conversation, confessing:
“I wish I could work in carpet-making again, I hope that my husband is employed, my children return to school and all of us live safely with dignity again“.
Little Younes is lucky to participate in the activities being held in the structure, that include English lessons and group games. These activities have supported him in becoming more social, sharing and able to express his feelings. Younes prepares to adapt as quickly as possible to the environment awaiting him in Sweden.