A 13 year old Syrian refugee has embarked on a remarkable Ramadan challenge to raise funds and awareness of the plight of refugees from Middle Eastern countries and around the world by campaigning in front of the Houses of Parliament in London every day of the fasting month. Inspired by global icons like Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg, Abdullah Najjar heads for Westminster while fasting to inspire "big people" in parliament to help end the refugee crisis.
Born in the British capital, Abdullah lived in Syria for three years until the conflict started. He still remembers the chaos and desperation of the moment when his family were searching for safe routes to return to London. Most of his family members couldn't leave Syria, which left them displaced and vulnerable. They are still living in dangerous circumstances and fear for their safety.
"I am only a school boy. I can't change everything as I have no power to do so," explained Abdullah. "The big people who sit in this parliament can change things for the better for the refugee children who are hungry in Syria, Yemen and Burma. The Covid-19 pandemic is also a nightmare and I feel so sad to imagine what they are going through."
Speaking about the inspirational Yousafzai and Thunberg, he pointed out that they were his age or younger when they started to campaign. "If they can speak up and speak out and make people more aware and make change happen, I should try too."
Abdullah is accompanied in his challenge by his cousins, who are also from refugee families. They wear their school uniforms while campaigning. Explaining his reason for choosing the Houses of Parliament during the month of Ramadan, he said: "I am fasting every day during the month of Ramadan, but I know that food is waiting when I break the fast. People in the crisis areas don't have that certainty, they don't have food, they are starving every day and many of them are dying in the war or in the sea or we don't even know where [they are dying]."
This is not the first time he has undertaken such a task. During a fund-raising event in East London in 2018 he pledged to raise £10,000 ($13,900) for humanitarian causes. Although such an undertaking by a then 10-year-old boy was met with surprise and amusement, Abdullah went on to help raise more than £120,000 ($166,976).
Reflecting on that, his father, NHS doctor Mohamed Najjar, said, "We are supportive of Abdullah's wishes to help others. Since that event Abdullah would save as much as possible, and every year he would donate his full savings of a few hundred pounds." Seeing that his few hundred pounds was actually not enough to help end the crisis, he added, "Abdullah wanted the Prime Minister, the MPs in the whole House of Commons to come forward and take steps to end the crisis."
To make a donation to Abdullah Najjar's campaign follow this link.
You can also follow his daily campaign on Facebook.