Imagine having no rights to education, and no rights to work. That is what 150,200 refugees in Malaysia are struggling with every day. They face persecution in their country and are treated as illegal immigrants in this country.
In conjunction with Ramadhan, the month of forgiveness, gratitude, and giving, Global Peace Foundation Malaysia organized an Interfaith Ramadhan with Refugees to give everyday Malaysians the opportunity to interact with refugees and to understand their lives and challenges. It happened that World Refugees Day was taking place this month. We collaborated with The Picha Project, a social enterprise which aims to empower refugees’ through the establishment of a catering service for refugees to sell their home-cooked traditional dishes. The Picha Project prepared a scrumptious buffet of traditional cuisine from the refugees’ origin country so that all participants can taste the traditional dishes prepared by their new friends.
Dr. Teh Su Thye, the CEO of Global Peace, emphasized in the opening remarks that all humanity is connected as one big family of transcending colors and creed. Thereafter, the emcee, Radhi Khalid, wasted no time in inviting our three speakers up for the forum: Tini Zainuddin from Yayasan Chow Kit, Deborah Henry from Fugee School and Kim Lee from The Picha Project.
Looking at the crowd of different races of Malaysia and refugees that came from 6 different nations (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somali, Sudan, Yemen, and Rohingya) made the speakers feel very inspired. Deborah Henry said in the forum, “I love speaking at events where the crowd is so mixed. Everyone comes from a different place, they look different, and they have different stories, different cultures.” Each speaker introduced themselves and how they were inspired to help refugees in Malaysia. “It really starts with what we have in common, not what we don’t have in common. Common values are what we need more of”, Tini Zainuddin explained, “It’s about inclusion. It’s about including everybody in the society and welcoming everybody because that’s what makes Malaysia great.”
“It really starts with what we have in common, not what we don’t have in common. Common values are what we need more of” -Tini Zainuddin
Interfaith Ramadhan with Refugees aimed to connect Malaysians with our refugees and with one another. For many people, breaking fast in the event was their first time tasting traditional food from Syria, Afghanistan or Yemen. And they loved it!
The highlight of the event was the group activities. The group activities started with a simple ice-breaking game, participants were separated into groups, and each group was required to make a painting with their thumbprints on a canvas. It was an activity of creativity, and everyone really took this chance to tell a story or life philosophy through their painting. The painting was a build up to the next group activity: Question Cards. Each group was given a stack of question cards, which all the group members will have to answer. With simple questions like ‘What is your dream?’, the session allowed Malaysians to get to know the refugees’ stories on a deeper level.
Interfaith Ramadhan with Refugees is a simple event with a simple message: breaking borders while breaking fast. Ramadhan is a Muslim celebration, but the spirit and message of Ramadhan are universal to all humans. Through this event, bonds are created and gaps are bridged between people of different races and faiths.
Above races and faiths, everyone shares and learns about each other with sincerity.