The Islamic Relief advance smiled as he angled bottomward to allege cautiously in Arabic to a little 4-year-old babe continuing alfresco her academy in one of abundant tents in the Syrian refugee affected she alleged home.
“My name is Imad Enchassi, and I am an imam from the United States. I brought you some food,” he told the girl.
The child’s acknowledgment — and her austere address — took Enchassi by surprise.
“Silly! I accept food! Look at my feet. I charge shoes!” she said indignantly.
The Oklahoma City Muslim baton said he and his wife, Judith, bound afflicted their affairs for the day, and by nightfall, they had alternate to present the little babe with two pairs of shoes.
“She was ecstatic! She alleged me ‘Papa Noel,’ ” Enchassi said, abandoning the blessed moment.
‘A refugee myself’
The summer anamnesis afresh rose to the apparent as he apprehend and watched account accounts of bags of Syrian refugees beat their makeshift camps forth the bound of their war-torn country.
Enchassi, 50, said that through TV and bi-weekly images, bodies about the apple are examination the affecting plight of these refugees — many, perhaps, for the aboriginal time.
He said abounding of them are calling the Syrian refugees’ flight to European countries and America a all-around crisis, but it consistently has been a heart-wrenching crisis to him, because he has apparent it firsthand.
And he has been in their shoes.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, to a Syrian mother and Palestinian father, Enchassi said he spent his adolescence active in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp. He said he was there in September 1982 aback a accumulation alleged the Lebanese Christian militiamen attacked the affected and dead hundreds of refugees.
Enchassi said he emigrated to the U.S. in 1983.
For abounding summers, he has alternate to the Middle East as a advance for the altruistic aid alignment Islamic Relief.
When he visits the Syrian refugee camps and looks into the eyes of the accouchement like the little babe with no shoes, he sees their innocence.
He sees that they smile in animosity of their active conditions.
He sees himself, and he cannot about-face his aback on them, cannot advice but action them aid.
Enchassi said he’s acquisitive that others in the U.S. feel the aforementioned way.
“I still accept a refugee agenda from the United Nations adage that I am categorized as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon,” he said.
“There’s consistently that bendable atom for refugees because I was a refugee myself.”
Joy in the summer
Enchassi is acclaimed in the busline breadth as the architect of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and as a assistant of Islamic studies at Oklahoma City University. As such, he’s apparently one of the added arresting Muslims in the busline area.
Within the Muslim acceptance community, his summer advance stints with Islamic Relief USA, an associate of Islamic Relief Worldwide, are aloof as broadly known.
Enchassi said he and his ancestors accept catholic to action aid to the Syrian refugees for three-week to monthlong stints anniversary summer for the accomplished four years. He said they aftermost visited refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey forth the Syrian bound from mid-May to mid-June.
Before that, they catholic to advice Palestinian refugees, Iraqi refugees and Bosnian refugees.
Enchassi said acceptable the refugees brings him abundant joy.
He said abounding of the Syrian refugees anticipation they would be able to go home by now, “but these bodies accept been camping for four years” in a affected ambience that isn’t annihilation like what Americans would anticipate a “camp” to be.
“There’s no lake, no barbecue, no bathrooms. Basic hygiene is not there, and aback it rains, it actually pours into their tents,” he said.
Enchassi said through Islamic Relief, he has helped install baptize ablution systems, and packaged and broadcast food. He said he and volunteers from places like Switzerland, Italy and England visited schoolchildren and took them arcade for clothes and to comedy in a safe amphitheater area.
Enchassi said he identifies with the Syrian refugees’ admiration to backpack to Europe and America.
He said the bodies who alive in the countries area the Syrians accept set up affected are generally affable and balmy to the beat families, but this is not abundant to override the refugees’ animosity of actuality displaced.
“From the attitude of a actuality who was a refugee at one time, you still feel you are a refugee, that you are cheap citizen, and you appetite to accomplish a bigger activity for yourself,” he said.
Enchassi said he is aflame that in acknowledgment to the refugee crisis, several American organizations are allurement the U.S. State Department to acquiesce added Syrian refugees to appear to America than they ahead had planned. According to some account reports, President Barack Obama has asked that 10,000 added Syrian refugees be accustomed to immigrate to the U.S. than the government ahead had alloted.
Enchassi said he is admiring that government leaders are discussing means to advice the refugees, but he is acquisitive that they access the cardinal of added refugees who will be accustomed to immigrate to the country.
“It’s affecting to see the numbers that the State Department has declared. To us, 10,000 is nothing. Like I told my congregation, it’s like you actuality a multi-billionaire and aggravating to accord a penny to charity,” he said.
Enchassi said the Islamic Society is allotment of a affiliation of metro-area groups, including several altered faiths, that accept abutting calm to abetment the Syrian refugees that eventually will appear to Oklahoma.
He said Americans charge alone reflect on the history of the U.S. to apprehend that affable the Syrian refugees is in befitting with American ideals.
“We are a nation of immigrants. Our antecedents came actuality beat religious persecution,” the imam said.
And he said he expects Oklahomans, abounding with abysmal acceptance roots, will appetite to help. Some already accept accomplished out to action donations and added abutment for refugees accepted to accomplish their way to the Sooner State.
“First and foremost, this is not a Muslim crisis. It’s not a Christian crisis. It’s not a Jewish crisis. This is a animal crisis,” he said.
“We are bodies who adulation God, and we are acting according to our faith.”
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