PHOTO: Shish Tawouk
The Syrian refugee crisis: “We don’t have to be bystanders to history.”
This is the final week to get tickets to the Arabian Night dinner being hosted by the Atikokan Love for Refugees committee.
The evening, Saturday, May 27, will include a full Lebanese-style meal, an auction, and a mini-tour of Syria (in its better days). The tickets are $30 and are available at Revive, the Progress office, or by phone (597-6469 or 597-6789).
Kabab Village is providing the meal. The Hatoum family opened Kabab Village in Thunder Bay almost a decade ago, and has built an excellent reputation for their selection of Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes.
The dinner here will open with lentil soup, fresh pita bread, and a couple of appetizers: hummus (chickpeas blended with tahini (toasted ground sesame seeds), lemon, garlic, and olive oil) and tabbouleh (fresh chopped parsley, tomatoes, green onions, cracked wheat, and mint, all tossed in a homemade dressing).
The main dishes are beef shish kabab (cubed tenderloin, marinated and grilled) and chicken shish tawouk (tender barbecued chicken, topped with lettuce, pickles, and garlic sauce), served with golden rice.
No Lebanese meal is complete without dessert, and Kabab Village will provide a couple: baklava (phylo dough – very thin, unleavened pastry dough – stuffed with either pistachio or cashews, topped with homemade syrup containing rose water and orange blossom water), and maamoul (semolina flour with a cookie dough texture stuffed with dates).
Arabic coffee – for five centuries the symbol of Arab hospitality and generosity – completes the meal. Coffee originated in Yemen in 15th century. In the Arab world it is boiled, and often served spiced with cardamon. (Tea will also be available, and the Legion bar will be open.)
Lanny Cross of Cross Auction Sales will seek bids for a couple of dozen packages of merchandise donated by Atikokan businesses. And Fadi Dalal will present some slides of his home country, Syria, and share a little about it from its better days. He, wife Bushra Jabri, their children, her mother, and after several moves in search of a safer place to raise their family, fled the Middle East and came to Canada in 2010.
Ultimately, the evening is all about trying to help five more Syrians find a safe landing in Canada. Ramez Saloum, a storekeeper in Syria, is Christian (like the Dalal-Jabri family; he is a friend of Fadi Dalal), and fled Syria after repeated threats on his life.
What finally convinced him was a series of threatening anonymous letters, the final one of which came with a bullet. “This is your price” it said. He lives now in Beirut, Lebanon – one of over a million Syrian refugees in that country. (In 2016, the United Nations estimated the civil war in Syria had forced close to 11 million Syrians out of their homes; almost five million of them had fled the country completely.
Bushra Jabri has two friends from pharmacy school (Ahmed Shareef and Dina Attar) who are now refugees in Amman, Jordan. They fled Iraq with their two young children in 2015, after being threatened and assaulted on the street.
All five of these people are known to Immigration Canada, and have qualified for resettlement here, if sponsors can be found. Atikokan Love for Refugees has been raising money for a couple of years now, and needs to raise another $20,000 to sponsor these people.
Liz MacKay, a member of the committee, calls Atikokan a town of immigrants, and says this in part is what prompted her to get involved.
“Every year for the past one hundred and twenty Atikokan has welcomed new people. When my husband and I came here in 1970 from Africa, nearly everyone we met was from somewhere else. But we have stayed despite the rocks and trees, the isolation, the inconveniences, the long unpredictable winters, for one reason, because of the people. This was a good town to raise our children and for me to start a new business.”
“The recent images of women and children in Syria who were the victims of chemical attacks were undeniably heart breaking and horrifying. Watching this on television, it can be difficult to know how to respond… how to explain it, and war, to our grandchildren. There are no easy solutions or answers.”
“I know that no single donation or action will end the suffering. But together, we can make a small difference. We don’t have to be bystanders to history. We can fight back with our compassion and generosity. We want this world to be a better place.”