We stand with struggles of oppressed peoples around the globe! Black Lives Matter!
The selection from Asif Ahmed’s interview below, is one of the many examples in the chapter on India, and book, which highlight how differences are being broken down. In this case, how Islamophobia can be broken down. In the conversation, Asif never brought up the issue of religion or hinted at how despite being a Muslim he is serving people across other religious faiths. Rather, he is committed to reach out to more neighborhoods despite knowing full well that his own business will take several months to regain momentum
Asif Ahmed is collaborating with a few other organizations to prepare and deliver meals to several neighborhoods in Kolkata. Asif’s restaurant chain is involved with NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India, Kolkata Chapter) and together they started this initiative of serving the needy when the lockdown began. Initially, they aimed at feeding 100 people daily and gradually his friends joined, and other organizations too got involved. Currently, they are feeding 15,000 people daily. “We are trying that while the lockdown continues, a one-time meal could be provided from our end. We are doing it in Kolkata now. However, NRAI branches are there in other cities also across the country. Every city, the organization is doing something or the other. Like Delhi, Bombay (Mumbai),
Bangalore, people are joining hands to help others.”
Wheel pie makers
The wheel pie makers at Mr. Wheel Restaurant in Taipei donated about 3,000 wheel pies to hospitals. The team made about 200 wheel pies a day and stamped the “thank you” note in 14 languages on the surface of those pies.
Mr. Li, the owner of Mr. Wheel Restaurant, says, “We asked chief nurse officers to distribute our pies. We wish the ones who have the heaviest workload would be prioritized, but we never intervene in the process of distribution. Also, we’re not selective about which hospitals we deliver to. We started with the ones closer to our restaurant, and then expanded our delivery map. We did prioritize the ones that have emergency rooms, though. Pies were delivered equally to small and big hospitals."
Rasan Duhoki is a 25-year-old humanitarian activist, from Duhok governorate in the north of the Kurdistan Region. His city has been hosting refugees and IDPs since 2011. With the great flux of displaced people, in 2014, Rasan became an active participant in supporting his community. He joined numerous volunteer projects and initiated many of them. In 2016 he established his organization Rusaz, meaning a new face. Rasan still often prefers doing personal solidarity work, to deliver assistance to people as quickly as possible. His aim is more to provide aid than acquire a profitable professional career in the humanitarian sector.
What is the difference between this crisis and the past ones that your community has faced?
The difference this time is that the whole world is facing this pandemic. It is not restricted to a certain country or community; all experiencing the same fear. Yet, in the past crisis, we would receive support from other countries, like the scenario was when ISIS attacked Iraq, but now, we all have to depend on ourselves, we all are in the same boat together. And what makes it difficult is that this virus has no borders, it is not only a city, a camp, or a community, it is a borderless virus. One needs to think about how to support effectively, especially that in Duhok, we do not have reliable statistics for people who are at the poverty level.
According to Elisio Macamo,
Africans have always responded to crises by appealing to their vibrant social safety nets for protection and action. This is not a romantic view of the continent. It is a pragmatic acknowledgement of the continent’s real situation, one to which Africans have responded in resilient ways, even if at great human cost.
As the author of the above quote rightly argues, lockdowns in most parts of the African continent “at least theoretically, weaken [those] safety nets by depriving individuals both of sources of livelihood as well as of opportunities for bonding.” This thinker is certainly referring, but not exclusively, to the practice of Ubuntu, which in various communities in southern Africa is expressed by individuals and groups providing social and community service to the others. Ubuntu is a Nguni Bantu term meaning “humanity.” It is often translated as “I am because we are” or “humanity towards others.”
The solidarity actions underway in southern Africa aim precisely to reinforce this idea, even in situations where the state criminalizes it. In the Western Cape province of South Africa, a collective of women were doing community kitchen work, distributing hot food to hungry people in their community. Police intervened and beat them up for doing an activity that was allegedly prohibited under the lockdown. The collective approached the C19 People’s Coalition. The coalition approached a social justice lawyer who helped to organize a meeting with the prevention police commissioner. As a result of that meeting, not only was this women’s collective allowed to resume the community kitchen, but it was also regulated that this solidarity activity is allowed throughout the Western Cape province.