Over 3,400 Muslim teenagers and children stood in line this week in Nigeria to receive food boxes from Chabad shlichim for the holiday of Ramadan, COL reported.
“It’s a sign of co-existence and mutual respect,” one of the shlichim explained to COL.
According to the Collive website, this is not the first time that Chabad has helped impoverished residents of Nigeria.
Rabbi Israel and Haya Uzan, co-directors of Chabad of Nigeria have established many humanitarian projects in Nigeria since establishing their Chabad House in 2013, including an eyeglass-distribution program, programs for children with special needs, technology classes for locals and assisting local orphanages.
According to an interview with Rabbi Uzan a few years ago on Ynet in an article entitled: “In Nigeria, Chabad House Is Not For Jews Only,” the Jewish community in Nigeria is mostly comprised of Israelis who are working at Israeli companies or are there on business or humanitarian work.
Rabbi Uzan said that from the time he arrived in Nigeria, helping the local residents became a major part of his mission.
“From our first day in Nigeria, we decided it was very important not only to care for the Jews, but also to see what change we could bring to this place,” Rabbi Uzan said. “My insight was that if we want to be part of it, and really engage in Kiddush Hashem, we must look into ways to help. Nigeria is a very poor country, and there is no shortage of things that can be done. We looked for places we could integrate with the Chassidic spirit we bring with us.”
When asked how Nigerians react to their chessed work, Rabbi Uzan said: “Nigeria is a country of believers. They see the ‘Chosen People’ (as they call the Jews) as very special people. It’s part of their Christian tradition, so they are very excited about it.”
“We receive financial backing from a charity fund of the Waki family from France, together with Israeli companies which operate in the country, some in different security fields, like Eyal Mesika’s company, and they help fund these projects.”
Rabbi Uzan also spoke about his work for the Muslim community, assisting refugees: “It’s for Muslim youth that flee northern Nigeria because of the terror of groups such as Boko Haram. There are many needy families.”
“There is an existing humanitarian organization, and we are funding two projects through it: one, a basic roof, and the other, infant formula. Because of the security-related circumstances, it is important for us to fund projects for both religions, to make it clear that we support all the needy, regardless of their religion.”
The Ynet interviewer expressed surprise that Rabbi Uzan was helping so many non-Jews, saying: “The Chabad House is supposed to be for Jews, isn’t it?”
“That’s completely untrue,” Rabbi Uzan replied. “The Lubavitcher Rebbe addressed this issue explicitly and stressed the need to contribute to the local community. In this sense, we are no exception. There are Chabad Houses in other places that help the local community in different ways. It’s a Jewish value to help whoever needs it, regardless of whether they are Jewish or not, and there is of course a lot of Kiddush Hashem in it.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)