Beirut mass iftar marks World Refugee Day

Beirut mass iftar marks World Refugee Day
The communal meal was organised by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) alongside local charity Makhzoumi Foundation with the support of the European Union in Lebanon.
Bringing communities together in Beirut, displaced Syrians, Sudanese, Iraqis and Ethiopians joined Lebanese families for a mass iftar on Saturday (June 17).

The communal meal was organised by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) alongside local charity Makhzoumi Foundation with the support of the European Union in Lebanon.

Gathering ahead of sunset, the event is being held a few days before World Refugee Day -- a day dedicated to the plight of the displaced.

"It is like a short day during which we all celebrate together. This day also supports our campaign #WithRefugees as United Nations, in which we show our solidarity with refugees as a Lebanese community and communities around the world,'' said Riwa Shatila a representative from UNHCR.

As well as the Ramadan meal, a number of entertainment events were also scheduled to appeal to all age groups, with a puppet show and dancers taking to the stage.

For those attending Saturday's event, it was an opportunity to forget about their own struggles, having fled war and conflict in search of a better life in Lebanon.

"Such entertaining activities, in which we can be together, help us face the difficulties of war and forget our pain a little... we make a nice atmosphere with people, meet each other and bring something positive for all children and everyone here tired from war,'' said 33-year old Nada Barakat, a Syrian refugee who fled Aleppo five years ago.

"It is a great initiative. Everyone loves music, we all like to be happy and celebrate life,'' added Syrian refugee Salem Diab, from Idlib. The number of people fleeing Syria's civil war into neighbouring states and Egypt has passed the 5-million mark, according to data from the U.N. refugee agency.

Syrians have poured across their borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq since anti-government protests in 2011 spiralled into a full-blown conflict between rebels, Islamist militants, government troops and foreign backers.

World Refugee Day is on June 20, it's a day to commemorate "strength, courage and resilience of millions of refugees," reads UNHCR website. It continues this year its call for solidarity and support for refugees with an on-going worldwide '#WithRefugees' petition.

The petition calls on governments to provide children with an education, for every refugee family to have a safe place to live, and for refugees to learn, work and be able contribute to their communities.