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DAWN: 05:19
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News Code: 693


Muslim Charity Feeds Paris Homeless

Over the past two decades, an Islamic charity has been serving a special meal for Muslim and non-Muslims during the holy fasting month of Ramadan where volunteers serve thousands of Paris poor and homeless.

“We feed Muslims who come here to break their fast, but we also feed non-Muslims, the homeless, alcoholics, people of all ages and backgrounds,” charity president Hakim Didouche told France 24 on Saturday, August 3.

“Our doors are open to everyone.”

At a temporary metal and plastic structure at Porte des Lilas in northeast Paris, about 30 volunteers work hardly to offer “Une Chorba Pour Tous” [Soup for Everyone] to the homeless and poor.

The free meal is usually served to approximately a thousand people a day during the holy month of Ramadan over the past 21 years.

The charity, financed by “Culture Qatar” and individual donations, feeds between 1,000 and 1,200 souls a day.

“Most of the donors are private individuals,” Didouche said.

An hour before the distribution begins, hundreds of people line up with some preferring to take food parcels to eat at home.

“I’m better off here than in my little apartment, which is baking hot,” says 34-year-old Wassila, who had to take a break and splash water on her head.

Wassila, originally from Algeria, says helping out helps her get back to her roots

“While we’re handing out the food we speak in Arabic, it makes me feel like I’m with my family, in Algeria, back with the familiar language and the familiar traditions.”

She is one of 30 volunteers, including students, workers, the unemployed and the retired.

Going about their work with humor and determination, some cook, some prepare vegetables which other serve, maintain order and finally clean up.

“I’m here to help, to do something good, to give something back,” says Issène, 22.

“It’s important to make an extra effort during Ramadan, and it does give you a feeling of moral satisfaction.”

Preserving Identity 

Serving iftar to attendants, the center’s atmosphere turns to be one of celebration and lively conversation.

“Breaking the fast is a very important moment for me,” Warda, 28, who has come to eat with her husband Khalid, told France 24.

Surprised by the joyfulness of the occasion, the atmosphere was unexpected for the young woman, who has only recently moved to Paris from her family home in rural western France.

“It’s a part of my identity that I can never forget.”

The couple, who are unemployed and homeless, have been coming here for the last two weeks.

“Before, we would do a bit of shopping and eat in our car or in a hotel room,” says Khalid.

“But coming here does a lot of good, and despite the heat of the summer, it’s good to have a hot meal.”

In a close table, Seddik, a 40-year old man, said he is not a devout Muslim and does not observe Ramadan, but comes to “Une Chorba Pour Tous” because he enjoys the atmosphere.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say you make friends here, but at least you get to meet people,” he says, grinning and rolling a cigarette.

“Even if I’m not doing it because of religious convictions, there’s a strong traditional element that I do enjoy.”

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started Tuesday, July 9, in France.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.

Source: On Islam