Amid ongoing chaos in Iraq and Syria, a Muslim woman is taking a leading role with a prominent Christian charity, helping to feed and clothe displaced Christians around Iraq — a quest motivated by her intense "desire to help out."
"I know what a lot of people say about Islam, but my Islam that I believe in is a religion that is very peaceful and believes in helping others," Dr. Sarah Ahmed recently told The Christian Post. "You can not sleep while your neighbor is hungry or suffering. You have to lend a hand."
Ahmed, who was trained as a dentist, has been working with The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East over the past few years, a Christian-run charity that seeks to meet the needs of Christians and other refugees who have been driven away from their homes and towns by the Islamic State.
Razgar took this picture of me without me knowing, I see it now and I remembered what happened. I was in my way into the CCM at #Debaga Camp in #makhmour #Kurdistan area. I got in and I see this pregnant woman on the ground. Few women around her yelling. All men from the fence yelling "Cover her". And I look at her, put her on the side, drizzled some water on her face, took her pulse. Everything is normal. They keep yelling at me to "cover her" I look at her and she's covered up head to toe with her black abaia dress. After I washed her face she woke up and opened her eyes but for some reason she wants to stay on the ground. Nothing was wrong with her but for some reason she still preferred the ground. I gave up. Told the ladies to help me take her to the side under the shade, and after that two nice young doctors also came and checked her situation. I went into the CCM at that point. I kept thinking of her, why she wanted to stay on the ground. And how she used the only way she knew to draw attention. And how she's living in this horrible environment with those "cover her" yelling freaks, fighting over a piece of bread, under the 45 c at good days. While... pregnant. That's the story of this picture, it's not a picture of a heroic action or something I did. It's simply something I witnessed and tried my best to help. It didn't work though. #sadreality Please like my page on facebook if you have an account there: @becauseilovepeace And if you don't mind check out the other updates I post and if you are interested to follow please do.
"I believe that all Muslims and all people have to do something to give back to life and the fact that they are living," she said of her efforts.
Ahmed's current role in the organization as director of operations involves organizing and delivering food and other resources to displaced people in the Kurdish region, according to The Christian Post.
But Ahmed has also played other key roles in the operation. In a 2014 interview with The Christian Science Monitor, she discussed providing free health care at a Baghdad clinic for displaced people in need.
"We provide quality health care for people who can’t afford to go to a doctor or a dentist, and we don’t treat them differently just because it’s free," she said at the time. "We have our own budget so we can provide for people who have no place to stay — we pay the rent, we distribute food, we visit poor families and give them love. We don’t differentiate between Christians and Muslims."
Ahmed has also helped to distribute food in northern Iraq to the many Christians and other refugees who had fled the horrors of the Islamic State. In a past article written for Daystar, she once described the intense situation she found herself in at the start of the refugee crisis.
"With so many people coming, there was so much need. I was working flat out from 6:00 in the morning until midnight," she said. I had to make trips to get food, water, supplies and whatever else all those families needed. Some nights, I spent all night at the Church, making meals for more than 50,000 people per mealtime."
Considering her Muslim faith — something that is certainly unique for such a prominent leader in a Christian-run organization — Ahmed said that she has never felt awkward while working with The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, and that the differences "never crossed her mind."
"I feel no difference. I work for the Christians, Yazidis, Jews, everybody else," Ahmed said. "For me, we are all equal. I don't differentiate that much."
Canon Andrew White, founder of the organization, almost didn't hire her, though, as he questioned if she would be a good fit due to her Muslim faith. But Ahmed said that White believed God wanted him to bring her on board.
"(White) was thinking 'What a place she would be in? She is not fit,'" she told The Christian Post. "Then he said that God said, 'No, you know nothing. You have to have her. She has to come and work with you.'''
As for those who would critique her Muslim faith, Ahmed said that she believes her religion touts the values of peace and care for others. Her work, of course, comes along with some danger.
Ahmed has noted in the past that she is often fearful, considering that the Islamic State does not recognize the brand of Islam she subscribes to, and has threatened and killed those who don't subscribe to their radical ideology.
"Sometimes I get really scared," she has admitted.
But Ahmed has repeatedly said that she is intent on helping displaced people and working to bridge divides to foster interreligious dialogue.
It should be noted that White, the founder of the organization, was reportedly suspended by trustees of The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation over claims that he was involved in issuing alleged payments to purchase back sex slaves from the Islamic State.
The Charity Commission in the U.K. is reportedly investigating the organization, though White has denied wrongdoing.
"We never gave the bad guys one penny," he told Religion News Service in an email earlier this summer.
The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East has declined to offer in-depth comment on the matter, though the organization said in a June statement that leaders believe "that the alleged incident stemmed from a genuine desire by Canon White to help others."