Why Eid Al Fitr charity is a year-round affair

Conflict and hunger, whether in Gaza or elsewhere, mean the celebration's values of compassion and solidarity are in constant demand

A Palestinian child shows off her special clothes before Eid Al Fitr celebrations in Rafah. The end of Ramadan is a special time for Muslims, but the continuing catastrophe of Gaza will be foremost in many people’s minds. AFP
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Today, millions of people in the UAE and across the Muslim world will bid the month of Ramadan goodbye as they celebrate Eid Al Fitr. It is an important occasion marked with morning prayers, family get-togethers and gift giving that is often accompanied by a public holiday to allow people to come together in celebration and reflection. It is an important time for family, friends and faith, but the continuing catastrophe of Gaza will, sadly, be foremost in many people’s minds.

Fasting and food are an integral part of Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr, so the famine and malnutrition that stalks the Palestinian enclave are particularly sobering. It has also been bitterly disappointing that the convention of Ramadan and Eid truces witnessed in other conflicts such as those in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Syria have not been replicated in Gaza, despite the possibility being raised in a talks process now characterised mostly by frustration. Similarly, last month’s call from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire in war-torn Sudan to mark the holy month have gone unheeded.

Despondency at such a situation is understandable, but it is important to appreciate the efforts being made to show practical solidarity and compassion with people at home and abroad at this time of year.

In the Emirates, we can see charity that is not only in keeping with the values of the holy month but that is also smart and effective. The UAE’s Mothers’ Endowment Campaign has raised more than a billion dirhams to help disadvantaged families around the world by providing educational materials, launching social programmes and equipping schools. Putting mothers’ education at the heart of the programme is a strategic move that can benefit entire societies by breaking the cycle of poverty.

In addition, the UAE Food Bank's One Thousand Meals cooking programme has brought together volunteers, chefs, hotels, farms, supermarkets, companies and charities to distribute millions of meals by using surplus food such as vegetables, rice and meat that would otherwise be thrown away, striking a blow against food waste.

Internationally, the UAE has set up a $20 million field hospital (its second) for Sudanese refugees in Chad and the Emirates continues to work with foreign partners to direct aid to Gaza by land, air and sea, the latter being a difficult task that has been brutally disrupted by the recent Israeli killing of seven humanitarians working with World Central Kitchen and the UAE.

Nevertheless, the spirit of solidarity and giving has been seen across the country as citizens and residents continue to donate to Emirates Red Crescent initiatives for Gaza and for the needy at home. Such compassion is not confined to Muslim recipients – according to a 2019 report into Islamic philanthropy in the US, Muslims are just as likely to give to causes outside the Muslim community than they are to causes within.

Despite the significance of Eid Al Fitr as a religious, cultural and social celebration, the values of charity and compassion that characterise it are not limited by its duration. People face day-to-day challenges all year round, even when it comes to putting food on the table. This week’s news that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation recorded the first monthly rise in global food prices in seven months is a cause for concern, especially for the most vulnerable of communities.

Despite the difficulties ahead, those suffering in Gaza and elsewhere will continue to have the support of people in this country, no matter their background. As we enjoy the celebration here and life returns to its normal routine, there will be no let up from those who want to help Palestinians and others suffering from war, hunger and poverty. That spirit of giving is accentuated at this special time but lasts year round.

Published: April 10, 2024, 3:00 AM