Celebrating Eid with refugees in Calais
This weekend we’ve given out more than 200 special gift bags for Eid in Calais and Dunkirk. Each bag is decorated, and contains a bar of chocolate, a can of Cola, a box of dates, a torch, and a gift, which is either a pack of cards or a notebook and pens. It’s been amazing to see the beams on the faces of the Muslim refugees receiving them, and the whole atmosphere at the distributions has been wonderful.
Eid, which is being celebrated this weekend, can be a bittersweet time for Muslim refugees in northern France. On the one hand it’s a celebration after the month of fasting in Ramadan. On the other, it brings back memories of home, where happy visits to friends and family, and giving and receiving gifts, are important part of the celebration.
We may not be able to bring people’s friends and families to them, but we can share conversations and celebrate, and give our gifts to show that here in Calais there are still people who love and care about them.
This time of year, when you see people smiling and greeting each other with such joy in Calais, always make me think about how important that love, respect and compassion are. I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with a refugee in his twenties who had walked much of the way from his native Iran with his brother. He described walking through forests and over mountains in terrible weather, but when said it must have been soul destroying for him, he said actually, it wasn’t the worst thing. He was fit, and could withstand the physical pain, but what had got to hime was the way people had spoken to them, as if they were animals. “It was just because we were refugees. At home, we were happy people with friends and a normal life. But now it was as if we had no right to exist.”
At least in Calais, he said, he could have normal conversations.
I thought about that young man’s words today, and thought, not for the first time, that the friendliness and genuine respect you find so often in Calais can make it heartwarming place to be. And never more so than days like these.
#Refugees #RefugeesWelcome #VolunteerStories #Eid #EidMubarak