As winter deepens, so does the struggle of displaced Syrian families in Ghouta. The site of some of the war’s worst fighting and besiegement.
Faith focused charity Caritas understands this – that’s why it is partnering with local Islamic charities to step up its assistance in the area.
In July, Caritas arrived in Ghouta, and, cooperating with the local Islamic Charity Hifz Al Neema (meaning “Save the Grace”), was able to distribute 1,480 food baskets, 1,000 packs of fresh vegetables and 600 boxes of nappies.
Since then, this collaboration has continued to flourish, with Hifz Al Neema helping Caritas to deliver 1,240 food kits for families in September alone.
This interfaith solidarity will be key to the success of Caritas’ winter mission. The organisation has an ambitious plan to help communities in Ghouta to prepare for the winter, chiefly in the form of help with heating and blankets. However, they are relying on the help of distribution partners to make their humanitarian assistance goals a reality.
One collaborative project that is already underway is a needs assessment project – planned by Caritas and undertaken with the help of local volunteers – with the aim of designing a response that will be beneficial for the Internally Displaced People, returnees and local communities in Ghouta. This assessment will include shelter and education components that will inform future programs.
“In a country where different religious communities used to live in harmony, the ongoing conflict has sadly created animosity and deep divisions in the minds of many people,” said Davide Bernocchi, Caritas’ Advisor on Interfaith Partnership.
“The collaboration between Caritas and a Muslim organization to provide vital help to these extremely vulnerable people is a powerful message of hope for the future of this country.”
Interfaith partnerships are not only flourishing on the ground in Syria, but also at home in the UK.
Over the course of the seven-year war, a plethora of faith-based charities have worked side by side to help coordinate fundraising efforts in response to emergency appeals, as well supporting Syrian refugees in the UK.
Reverend Heston Groenewald’s Syrian Kitchen Project is a great recent example of this cooperation.
Heston, a “caring individual who opens his arms to all communities” according to Near Neighbours Coordinator (West Yorkshire) Kaneez Khan, sees interfaith work as a natural part of his position as Priest-inCharge of All Hallows’, Leeds.
In 2016, he opened a Syrian Kitchen in the City, which enables Syrians to spend the day at his church cooking meals and talking about their culture with others. He also recently joined Muslims and Jews to lead a counter-demo against a far-right gathering in Leeds.
The partnerships fostered by Heston and Caritas should serve as an example to all of us.
By going above and beyond to help those who have withstood imaginable suffering, by offering a source of comfort and community, and by standing up for unity against those who would seek to highlight our differences, they are demonstrating the true meaning of charity.
That is, love, compassion and solidarity for all; not only those that look think and believe as we do.