By Fatoun a-Sheikh and Avery Edelman
AMMAN: Syrian refugees in Jordan are gathering for communal meals this month to break the Ramadan fast together and to “remember the atmosphere” of the holidays in Syria, participants tell the Syrian Voice.
Civil society groups and humanitarian organizations in Jordan are coordinating the ‘break-the-fast’ events throughout the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk.
At the events, attendees take part in a meal ending the daily fast known as iftar.
Although they began as one way by which humanitarian groups offer much-needed meals to Syrian refugees living in Jordan, 82 percent of whom live below the poverty line, attendees say that the communal iftars have become much more than just a meal.
“I don’t go to receive aid or a meal, but rather to remember the atmosphere in Syria and the Ramadan gatherings at our home,” Amal, a Syrian refugee from Damascus, told the Syrian Voice.
Amal fled to Jordan’s capital, Amman, four years ago with her three children. She is one of nearly 1.4 million Syrians currently living in the country, according to government figures.
Since coming to Jordan, Amal tries to participate in all of the Ramadan events that take place in her neighborhood, bringing her children along as well.
“My biggest loss in exile is family and our get-togethers for the holidays,” she said. “My biggest fear for my children is that they’ll lose those experiences.”
The group iftar meals have changed over time, Amal added, becoming more festive and incorporating many of the activities that were a part of Ramadan celebrations in Syria, including traditional Syrian songs, dances and dishes.
Through these activities, the events can “bring Syrians back to their land,” even if only briefly, said Mousa al-Amoush, head of a civil society group in Jordan’s Zarqa governorate.
Break-the-fast events are also an opportunity for Syrian refugees to share a meal with their Jordanian hosts.
Al-Amoush, who heads the Youth Association for Self Development, says his organization is one of many that invite both Syrian and Jordanian families to their tables.
By including Jordanians, the meals “allow for an exchange of cultures” to take place and encourage Jordanians to “get to know Syrian customs,” he said.
His organization hopes that the end result will be strengthened communities and improved coexistence, goals that are increasingly the focus of the humanitarian response in Jordan.
Nearly 90 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live outside of formal camps and their presence has, in some areas, strained municipal services, tightened job competition and contributed to resource scarcity.
Community support projects are seen as one way to prevent tensions by “breaking boundaries,” Fatima al-Jamal, head of the Hashemite Women’s Charity Association, told the Syrian Voice.
She says that gathering around one table and exchanging culture has already been “a successful tool,” citing one neighborhood where a group of Syrian and Jordanian women grew close after a series of iftar meals.
“The women have formed social relationships, [developed] shared household projects and exchanged visits to discuss common struggles, all far from the distinction between refugees and the host community,” she said.
Original Arabic article found here.