Muslim charity helps Italy deal with crisis

On a national level, aid offered since the end of February by Muslim organizations has exceeded €500,000. (AFP)
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Updated 14 May 2020

Muslim charity helps Italy deal with crisis

  • Financial, food aid eases economic hardship in wake of curbs

ROME: 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.
 


Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

Updated 10 July 2020

Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

  • Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018
  • Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s attorney general said Friday that two men had confessed to killing a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group as part of a plot to topple Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.
His shooting death last week sparked days of protests and ethnic violence that killed 239 people, according to police figures.
“The assassination was intended to be a cover to take power from the incumbent by force,” attorney general Abebech Abbebe said in a statement Friday aired on state television, without providing details.
Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office, a complaint echoed by many protesters last week.
Abebech said that along with the two men who have allegedly confessed to the crime, the government has identified a third suspect who remains on the run.
One of the men in custody identified the masterminds of the alleged plot as members of a rebel group the government believes is affiliated with the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) political party, Abebech said.
The OLF, a former rebel movement, returned to Ethiopia from exile after Abiy took office and has repeatedly disavowed any links to armed insurgents.
The Internet remained shut off Friday for an 11th consecutive day, though Addis Ababa remains calm and Abiy’s office issued a statement saying the surrounding Oromia region had “returned to calm and citizens have resumed normal activities.”
In her statement, however, Abebech said unnamed agitators were calling for additional protests and road blockages in the coming days.
“There are those that have hidden themselves in nice places but are calling on Ethiopian youth to fight each other, close roads and to cease working as part of a rebellion call,” Abebech said.
“Above all we call on our people to disobey this rebellion call and to thwart it.”