Syrian men perform prayers during the holy month of Ramadan. (Photo: OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

by Bahia Mardini

THIS May, thousands of people across the world are observing Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer, charity, and community for all Muslims. It’s an occasion to spend with loved ones and for communities to come together to break bread, as well as to be grateful for what you have. For many people around the world, including myself, it’s also a time for hope.

This Ramadan my mind turns to my hometown of Syria and the Muslims who will be celebrating there this year and hoping for a better future amidst the devastation.

Since Ramadan has been underway, hundreds of thousands of my Syrian brothers and sisters have attempted to flee as Syrian forces and Russian allies have opened another offensive against civilians in Idlib, displacing even more families, destroying hospitals and resulting in people losing their lives. Of course, the recent declared victory over Daesh provided us with a sense of hope about Syria’s future but we must not forget the struggle Syrians face whilst trapped in this horrific cycle of violence.

Syria is a country of rich culture, traditions and devotion to faith and Ramadan there used to be source of joy and great anticipation for my family and many others. However, since the war started, the ongoing attacks in Syria makes observing Ramadan incredibly difficult. Many civilians are struggling to survive and years of civil war have forced many to sacrifice their traditions.

Ramadan used to be a time when communities would come together and a time for hosting extravagant events for hundreds of people whilst breaking fast. Now, with inflation and the scarcity of food supplies, Syrian people are trying to avoid starvation. At the moment it’s not even safe in your own house, which means visiting a mosque for prayers is sometimes out of the question. Celebrations like Eid, the bringing together of different communities and exchanging visits with neighbours, are just a memory.

However, to myself and many back home Ramadan doesn’t just embody reflection, but also restoration. Ramadan is a time to hope and pray that Syria can and will be restored to the incredibly rich and diverse place it was before the war.

The callous and despicable people that intend to destroy my home are not true believers. While we fast, Assad, his allies and groups such as Daesh destroy all that is pure and even take donations intended for innocent people whilst claiming they represent aid groups. We cannot let them win.

This Ramadan, Muslims looking to practice Zakat should be mindful of where their funding goes. After the horrific attacks since the beginning of the year, it’s important to keep terrorist groups weak and strip them of any support.

It’s been seven years since I escaped Syria to come to the UK and hope is what fuelled my desire to leave. Hope for a better life for me and my son and an end to living in the constant fear of the Assad regime. Though I have made a new life for myself here in the UK, and have the ability to practice my faith how I want to, I do not forget where I came from.

Dedication to exposing the ongoing struggle in Syria is only one step on the ladder to restoration. It’s been amazing to see the dedication by many people I know in the UK to the Syrian cause. All year, people are providing humanitarian aid, giving food, shelter and medical care for people to worse conditions than themselves.

Whatever your faith or background, let’s hope we can move forward with hope for the Syrian people and religious groups around the world.