World Bulletin / News Desk
A French Muslim charity is serving 60,000 free meals during Ramadan from a temporary structure on the edge of Paris. It’s a place where the faithful – and anyone else who wants to join – can break their day-long fast, in a spirit of togetherness, reported France 24.
For 21 years, a French charity has helped poor and homeless Muslims – and non-Muslims – break their Ramadan fast at sunset.
“Une Chorba Pour Tous” [Soup for Everyone] serves approximately a thousand people a day during the holy month of Ramadan from its centre at Porte des Lilas in northeast Paris.
An hour before the distribution begins there are already hundreds of people lining up; women and children on one side, men on the other.
The crowd is made up of young and old; not all of them are here for religious reasons.
“Une Chorba Pour Tous” – chorba is a popular North African soup that is a staple of the sunset Ramadan feast – may be an Islamic charity, but its organisers insist that everyone is welcome.
“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,” says charity president Hakim Didouche. “Our doors are open to everyone.”
‘I’m better off here than in my little apartment’
It’s 8 p.m. and the first distribution begins for those taking food parcels to eat at home.
Inside the centre, the long wooden trestle tables are empty as volunteers lay out plates of dates, which alongside a half baguette, yoghurt and the eponymous chorba make up the evening meal.
Despite the 33-degree Parisian heat, the food hall is sweltering beneath its temporary plastic roof. But the volunteers are in good spirits.
“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. She refuses the offer of a lift back home.
Wassila is one of 30 volunteers. Among those there to help are students, workers, the unemployed and the retired, who go about their work with humour and determination.
They improvise their roles for the evening’s work, some cooking, some preparing vegetables. Others 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.”
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.”