The Arabic word “souq” refers to a space in which a transaction of some sort takes place. In the souqs scattered throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, this usually takes the familiar form of a marketplace where some people sell things others want to buy. However, there’s more to it than that. The exchange in the souq is not just of goods, services, and money but also news, opinions, and ideas — in short, culture.
The humanitarian work that Islamic Relief does in Canada and over 30 other countries across the world is built on the same spirit of sharing that has come become symbolic of the traditional souq. This is why, on November 11, 2018, we are organizing an event titled “Charity Souq: Hope for Refugees” in Toronto, Canada.
The event aims to bring together the local community to “exchange” what we, as creative individuals, have to share, whether that’s delicious food, thrilling activities like seed-planting or paint nite, or compelling storytelling by people who have persevered through difficult situations.
But the purpose of the event is not just to give those attending a colourful, memorable frigid fall evening, but also to give them an opportunity to share with the record 25 million people around the world that have been forced to become refugees due to some of the worst conflicts seen since the end of the Second World War.
That number of refugees does not include 40 million internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and 3.1 million asylum seekers. 85% of these live in underdeveloped countries. Over half of the 25 million refugees are under the age of 18. By the time you finish reading this sentence, it is likely that three more innocent people have been forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution.
They can’t be here to join our souq, nor, in many cases, can they visit their own. But at our Charity Souq event, we can be with them through the spirit of what a souq is all about: community. We continue to raise awareness about the challenges they face, advocate for an end to the conflicts that forced them to flee, and are committed to sharing part of the proceeds from our Charity Souq to provide them with food, water, and other life essentials.
A young woman whose family was once denied entry into the United States as refugees despite facing horrific persecution did not lose hope in ordinary people’s ability to make a difference. She wrote: “How wonderful it is that no one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world! How wonderful it is that everyone, great and small, can immediately help bring about justice by giving of themselves.”
Her name was Anne Frank, and she perished in a Nazi concentration camp at the age of 15. The Charity Souq is one opportunity for us to live by her words and help ensure that today’s millions of refugees have the chance to live long, fulfilling lives.