With the world in the grip of a global COVID-19 pandemic and country-wide shutdowns, it’s easy to overlook those struggling to survive as a result of wars far away.
The shift in media focus however, hasn’t changed the reality that the war in Syria has left tens of thousands displaced or orphaned.
On Sunday March 22, 35 cyclists of Muslim faith set out on an 85km ride from Lakemba Mosque to Stuart Park in North Wollongong, to raise money for those in desperate need.
The Sydney Muslim Cyclists (SMC) is a community-based club for everyone from veterans to casual weekly riders. Its aim is to give back to the community by actively participating in charitable and humanitarian events.
President Tarek Sari, said that with the Syrian winter hitting temperatures below zero, the goal was to “clothe as many as we can, and to feed as many orphans as we can”.
With the ride as its starting point, the club set out to raise $10,000 for orphans and refugees – as well as awareness of their ongoing plight.
At 5am, the cyclists gathered in the carpark of the Lakemba Mosque in Sydney’s west. They were briefed on the days’ itinerary and cycling safety, before morning prayers.
Mr Sari says that not praying five times a day is considered a sin. But praying in congregation is a good omen and encouraged.
During the ride, the cyclists stopped by Bellambi Drive-Thru Pharmacy for a break, where the owner was among the first to make a sizeable donation to their cause.
They then rode from Lakemba through to Alfords Point and the Royal National Park – before arriving at their destination.
Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Tamer Kahil, is a member of the SMC. He has been to Syria multiple times to provide medical support and is deeply involved in the Syrian refugee community in Australia.
He says events like these are important because they increase the awareness in Australia, “… [it] shows the Arabic community and the Muslim community are really thinking highly about the Syrian refugees, and they want to open channels to communicate with them. And to try to help them to settle in a new country, a new home, just to make life easier for them.”
The club had hoped to host a BBQ for the local Syrian refugee community after the ride, but the event was cancelled in line with COVID-19 health regulations.
For now, the SMC has cancelled group cycles but it encourages members to exercise solo or with a family member in the meantime. And it still welcomes donation to help those in Syria in dire need.
— Bevin Liu @JLiuBev