Suleman Nagdi from the Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO) chaired an event in Leicester on Saturday 29 November to discuss the issue of safer charitable giving to Syria.
Amongst those in attendance were representatives of the Charity Commission, Leicester City Council, Leicester Partnership NHS Trust and a number of charities.
Fruitful discussions were held on a number of themes including:
The importance of ensuring that money intended for a humanitarian cause gets to those that so desperately need it. There are multiple challenges in relation to this. Firstly we must be aware of individuals collecting money for both personal and nefarious reasons. Secondly we must be mindful that due to the complex situation it is not easy to operate in Syria therefore we must ensure that money is provided only to those charities that have the capabilities to operate successfully in Syria.
That this conflict has nothing to do with faith. It is a geopolitical power struggle with civilians as the main victims.
That the crisis in Syria is truly heart-breaking because people of all faiths and cultures once co-existed together in peace but the war has torn the country apart causing the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. Charities like Hand in Hand for Syria are engaged in providing cross-border relief efforts to the 70% of the country that is not in the hands of the government. It is very difficult for those of a non-Syrian background to provide assistance to the Syrian people as there are a number of threats present which is why it is best for those of a Syrian background to be on the ground to provide aid directly.
That FCO guidelines must be followed and individuals refrain from visiting Syria not only because of the multiple threats but also because going to Syria will be a most traumatising experience. This was reflected in a presentation from the local health trust who raised concerns about the psychological effects some of the experiences of conflict zones are having on people, and the importance of seeking local support if affected.
Mosques and charities were encouraged to continue raising funds for Syria and not let the complex security situation in Syria and Iraq discourage us from helping the continuing humanitarian disaster, while the City Council gave us a timely reminder of the local rules for giving safely and ensuring our donations reach their intended destination. The Charity Commission highlighted the responsibilities, and financial liabilities, of trustees to not only ensure money is collected appropriately, but that fundraisers and volunteers are properly safeguarded from harm, both here and overseas.