Austrian Ramadan: a taste of kindness and a free meal

Traiskirchen, Austria – Breaking bread, breaches all religious and cultural differences in Traiskirchen, Austria during the Iftar – evening meal to end the Ramadan fast organised by the Turkish Islamic Cultural Association.

Every day more than 2,500 people come here for a meal. They are mostly refugees from over 20 countries, including Mongolia, Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Libya who live in the nearby refugee camp.

“We have been organising this Iftar for the past 14 years,” Erdal Kaymaz, president of the Turkish Islamic Cultural Association told Al Jazeera.

“Initially we started by feeding 300 people but it has been increasing every year because of the rise in the number of refugees in Austria due to conflict and world politics,” Kaymaz said.

The meals are organised thanks to charitable donations from the community. Money and packaged food are donated by businesses, while volunteers help to run the Iftar. The volunteers are mostly the refugees as well as the residents of this locality, and include Christians who “come daily to help us,” said Kaymaz.

“We have had the same chef for the last 14 years. He cooks food in a way that everybody likes,” he said.

More than 150 kilogrammes of meat, 100 kilogrammes of rice and vegetables are used every day to prepare the meals.

The chef, Isa Kiris starts preparing the meal early  to ensure that everything is ready on time. 

“I am happy that everyone likes the food.  They never complain and I give my best to cook their meals. I can feel the pain of these people, who have had to flee their country due to difficult circumstances. I feel it is my duty to serve them the best food,” said the chef.

Claudia Jahns-Kozan has been volunteering here all through the month of Ramadan, although she is a Christian.

“It is the duty of every Austrian to come and help here. These are our brothers and sisters from far of countries leading a hard life and we can at least do this for them,” said Jahns-Kozan.

The refugees who come to eat here call it the free Ramadan kitchen.

“I live in the refugee camp and I come here with my wife to eat this lovely food,” said Alexa who is a 28-year-old refugee from Ukraine.

“This is so much better than the food we get at the refugee camp. I am a Christian and I have heard that Ramadan is coming to an end. This is sad and I wish this holy month could continue for some more time,” Alexa said.

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