Chicago Muslims helping Somalia during Ramadan

August 1, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The four benefits of fasting are self-restraint, knowledge, gratefulness and the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. Ramadan is also a time for community building and renewal. Fasting reinforces the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Families will gather Monday evening at local mosques to participate in prayer services.

"We fast a month, from sunrise to sundown. Ramadan teaches us humility and reminds us of the people today who are living in famine," said Muslim Anas Chraibi.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago is a federation of more than 60 organizations, mosques, and schools representing the Muslim community. Monday, they focused on needed relief efforts for Somalia.

Civil wars have been ongoing for two decades in Somalia. The UN has officially declared the region as a drought and famine-stricken area. Close to 4 million people, including 2 million children, are suffering from this calamity of epic proportions. The council states that half a million children are at an imminent risk of dying and help is needed.

"How can we prevent something like this from happening and how can we provide a peaceful life for the Somali children? By giving them food. That is saying we prevent you from starving today. What about his or her life tomorrow and the years to come?" said Ifrah Magan of the East African Community Center.

"What is happening in Somalia is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world," said Rashid Issack of the American Refugee Committee.

The council also announced its Green Ramadan Initiative for the month, encouraging environmental awareness in issues such as water usage reduction, recycling, and decreasing carbon production.

"We are encouraging people to donate to people who are starving to death in Somalia and think of long-term solutions, to be green, to think about our environment," said the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago's Zahar Sahloul.

The council has partnered with The Field Museum for a green Ramadan.

"We see a real opportunity here for Islam and the faith of Islam to tie their values and actions to addressing climate change," said Field Museum's Mario Longoni.

The hunger epidemic grows daily, damaging the health of children and rupturing the well being of families.

Ramadan is not only a time to build one's faith, it is also a time to build a stronger community. It is a time to be more charitable to others.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago wants Muslims to remember this Ramadan, when you break your fast, to reflect on this blessing of having a warm meal every day and being able to live without the struggle to preserve a healthy environment for your families. It is a time to be generous and to remember that one person can make a difference.

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