Thu 14 May 2020:
Muslim communities in Italy have been praised for their generosity during the coronavirus crisis after donating more than €500,000 in cash and food aid since the outbreak began more than two months ago.
Italy’s death toll so far is approaching 31,000, with almost half the fatalities occurring in Lombardy, the northern region considered the country’s powerhouse because of the key role it plays in the national economy.
But with the whole country feeling the pinch after the two-month lockdown, local media have highlighted Muslims’ generosity, especially during Ramadan.
Muslim communities and Islamic centers around Italy have worked hard to deliver food packages and aid to needy families during the crisis.
“Every single day we provide food deliveries everywhere to families who struggle to make ends meet. This is our charitable contribution,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of the Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), told Avvenire, the Italian Episcopal Conference newspaper.
“Muslims are citizens and workers with families. They share the economic hardship that all Italian families are experiencing. Even though Muslims are also facing difficulties, there have been generous donations from the community,” he added.
On a national level, aid offered since the end of February by Muslim organizations has exceeded €500,000.
Funds have been donated to municipal administrations, the Red Cross, volunteer associations, and directly to hospitals on the frontline, mainly in the north of Italy.
But the generosity extends beyond cash donations.
“UCOII has given more than 100,000 face masks to local hospitals. We also carried out a massive blood donation campaign, which received a highly positive response,” Lafram said.
“All these gestures have been appreciated by municipal administrations as well as by the wider community. In this moment of crisis, a truly beautiful sense of solidarity has emerged from Italy’s Islamic communities. And we are proud of it.”
Even small gestures are acknowledged. In Bergamo, the Islamic Center of Via Cenisio raised funds for the Papa Giovanni hospital, one of the most important treatment facilities in northern Italy.
The center collected €4,500 in only a few days, while 10 Islamic communities around Lombardy raised €29,500 for hospitals in the region, a local newspaper reported.
“Each community decided to help the health facility they feel closest to,” said Mohammed Saleh, president of the Via Cenisio Center.
The center also distributes food packages to those in need.
“At the beginning of the crisis, 17 families asked us for help; now we help 43, and not all of them are Muslim. We will distribute packages until the end of Ramadan. We feel a duty to help hospitals and those facing economic hardship since this emergency has affected us, too,” Saleh said.
He said the Moroccan community has suffered one of the highest death tolls in the region, followed by Senegalese and Pakistani residents.
Muslims will join an inter-religious prayer and fast day in Bologna on Thursday following a call by Pope Francis earlier this month.
“The keywords of this event are prayer, fasting and charity. That suits us perfectly since we are in the month of Ramadan when we fast and pray in the name of charity,” Lafram said.
“This is part of a shared dialogue between Muslims and Christians around the world. In Italy, there are shining examples of good practice at every level based on peaceful coexistence and action for the common good. This makes us think of a better future for everyone, because only through dialogue and mutual knowledge can we cope with prejudices, stereotypes and crises,” he added.
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