World Organisations

Putting Humanity First: Reporting from the Border of Ukraine

The Review of Religions

Zubair Ahmed Hayat, London, UK

The two key principles in Islam that the Promised Messiah (as) elaborated on, based on the Holy Qur’an, was to worship God and to serve his creation. He said, ‘There are two aspects of faith. Firstly, it is to love Allah the Almighty and secondly to love mankind.’ 

As you develop a relationship with God you will naturally start to develop your love for His creation. If you truly love God, you can never disown his creation, especially in a time of need.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community, following these teachings  of the Promised Messiah (as), has a long history of service to mankind, especially through the amazing work of Humanity First International, an independent global charity that helps people across the world regardless of their faith, culture, creed or background. It also sets up various programs through IAAAE, the International Association for Architects and Engineers, which builds model villages and the Nusrat Jehan scheme, which operates schools and hospitals.

I was sent to the border of Ukraine to meet key members of the Humanity First Germany team, who are working day and night for the safety and security of those affected by the war, and thus also showing the true teachings of Islam which is love and compassion for all.

In fact, as organisations such as IAAAE, the Nusrat Jahan scheme, and Humanity First work all over the world to help those in need, and this is the first what we hope to be a series of dispatches highlighting their work (and those of other Ahmadiyya Muslim Community organisations) around the world.

The flight from London to Warsaw,Poland, was like any other: locals going back to their homes, a few tourists…there were no signs that a global crisis was happening a few miles away in the neighbouring country.

However, it was on the flight from Warsaw to Rzeszow that the real atmosphere of tension hit me for the first time. As soon as I boarded the small plane for the hour-long domestic flight, which was crammed full of journalists, aid workers and military specialists from around the world, I really felt that we were now heading for a warzone. 

Getting off the plane was surreal. Landing in Rzeszow was like nothing I’d experienced before. Bar a few soldiers (both from the army and volunteer forces) armed with heavy weaponry, the area seemed completely deserted.

After leaving the airport I was greeted by Mohammad Athar Zubair, the Chairman of Humanity First Germany. He organised my stay in Poland with the team and is in charge of the disaster relief operations on the ground in Medyka, which is a town on the border of Ukraine. On the drive to Medyka we spoke about the refugee crisis and what to expect over the next few days – including all of the dangers of coming to this war zone. I saw the streets of Medyka for the first time: empty and deserted.

I was taken to the Humanity First camp, which was in an area with about 50 other charity organisations, and was heavily guarded by military and police. The first volunteer I saw was the Humanity First chef, who was – even in these stark circumstances with seemingly no resources and a small supply of fresh ingredients – was somehow cooking and distributing delicious meals to refugees in the middle of a warzone. His culinary skills were of the highest level and the fact that he was doing all this with a  lack of resources, working long hours and in harsh weather conditions made him nothing short of a hero. He’d sleep about four hours during the night and spent the remaining 20 hours cooking over the hot stove. The fact that he was nearing 70 made this all the more impressive. 

The Review of Religions

From the moment I first met the Humanity First workers they flooded me with countless inspirational stories of how God has helped them in ways they could not imagine.  One of the key members of the management team said, ‘I came here to feel closer to God. You always hear people say that God exists, but a human being always wants to have their own experience. When I got the opportunity to come here I had the chance to feel God very often and very close to me. And in such a way that nobody can tell me that God does not exist because of what I have felt.’

Being in a warzone, it was very difficult to get supplies and medicines for the vulnerable, but many Humanity First workers told me of times they needed something specific and by the Grace of God that thing would appear as if by magic. 

For example, the Chairman of Humanity First Germany, Mohammed Athar Zubair, said, ‘when we started working here we had to make our own medical setup. We had medicines in a good quantity; however, those were the ones we had stored for Africa. Due to them being purchased as wholesale, the medicines come in big bottles, which consist of 500 tablets of paracetamol. Yet our doctors in Europe cannot prescribe these wholesale medicines. There needs to be written on the medicines what they are and their expiry dates. We started to worry because if we purchased these medicines individually they would get very expensive. So I wrote a letter to His Holiness, the head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for prayers, and not even a day passed when two people, Michael and Rosana his wife, came to the camp and said they would like to assist us in serving the people. They helped us serve and because they had contacts in Spain, they spoke to them and that evening whatever medicines we needed they had brought us. Not even 24 hours had passed since writing the letters of prayers to His Holiness, and the medicines we needed (which came to €25,000) were given to us so that we could distribute it to the suffering people crossing the border.’ 

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The Humanity First workers started to realise that whenever they were in need of something for the sake of the injured refugees, God would show His mercy and help them with whatever they required. While these volunteers were especially skilled and knowledgeable, yet, when they couldn’t solve an issue on their own, support would come from the Hand of God. 

As I stood in the middle of this humanitarian crisis, witnessing the effects of the suffering around me as well as the heroic efforts of volunteers in my mind echoed the words of His Holiness Khalifatul Masih V (aba), who has explained the true teachings of Islam for years: ‘spiritual advancement is intrinsically linked to serving humanity so a Muslim cannot attain the love of God Almighty just through worship and prayer. Rather the love of God Almighty requires Muslims to serve humanity. We believe that Islam is a religion of love and compassion, and so we serve humanity without making any distinction based on the religion or ethnicity of those we help.’ 

Getting the flight back from Warsaw to London was a strange feeling. I was sent for a few days to film and take photos of the border crossing and document how Humanity First was responding to this disaster. However, as I was flying back over Europe I couldn’t help but to think of the many volunteers had been there for weeks without going back home to see their families. They continued their work purely for the sake of service to mankind and for no selfish benefit. While they were from different backgrounds, from Germany, Spain, UK and America, their deep desire to serve humanity gathered them together  to work day and night to help those in need. 

About the Author: Zubair Ahmed Hayat serves as the Head of Video Production & Design for The Review of Religions, having graduated with a Masters in English Literature and Creative Writing in London.

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