This article is about Ethar Relief, a charitable humanitarian organisation established in 2006 by Sultan Omar and other former refugees. The charity aims to address long-neglected issues concerning refugees, such as the plight of Eritrean and other East African refugees stranded in camps across the region for the past 55 years. The world has largely forgotten these displaced people – in part because of other conflicts and disasters, but also because these forgotten people have never been treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Ethar’s mission is to not only provide these refugees with humanitarian aid, but also remind the world of their rights and human needs.
The forgotten refugees
We know about the great Abyssinian civilisation that brought centuries of prestige and prosperity to East Africa. Today, however, many descendants of those great people have been living for generations as refugees in East Sudan and surrounding regions, without hope of respite or aid. The lives of these refugees have been affected by numerous difficulties such as conflict, famine, drought, natural disasters, and severe poverty.
Indeed, the Eritrean refugee crisis is one of the oldest in the world, stretching back well over 50 years. Alongside the war of independence, civil war within Eritrea has devastated many regions of the country, leading to thousands of displaced people.
The cumulative effect of these dangers sparked mass immigration across the border into East Sudan and surrounding areas, including across the sea to Yemen.
More recently, these refugees have been joined by Ethiopians fleeing crises in Tigray and other regions. The Horn of Africa is currently in the grip of conflict, and the human cost of this is incredibly high.
Realistically, Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees have very little prospect of returning to their homelands. The UN estimates that 1,800 refugees cross the border to Sudan every month. For most, repatriation is no longer an option, with even the UNHCR advocating for local integration of these refugees as a long-term solution.
The refugees in the camps of East Sudan and Yemen are there to stay, and it is the duty of Ethar Relief to remember their struggle and serve them with the best possible humanitarian assistance.
The making of humanitarians
Like in many humanitarian organisations, work at Ethar Relief is difficult and challenging, but this is overshadowed by endless hope, optimism, and motivation. When you speak to employees, volunteers, and supporters of Ethar, they tell you that every day of their lives is punctuated by inspiration, surprises, and uplifting miracles. The incredible passion for humanity—exemplified by Ethar’s founder Sultan Omar—is the motivating and driving factor behind this. It is an infectious desire to help, to go above and beyond in providing assistance to those in need, and to never turn away from a request or emergency. Once Ethar commits to a group of people, the team at the charity is in their service and will not rest until their dignity and humanity has been faithfully upheld.
The impact of this mindset and focus is huge. You cannot help but feel astonishment and wonder at the amazing achievements that sincere and dedicated people can make when they work together for the sake of others. Those who follow a faith have seen it strengthen in conviction after seeing divine mercy in the year-on-year increase in generosity and goodwill shown by Ethar’s supporters.
None of this could be achieved without strong teamwork and sincere partnerships. The core management team established by Sultan Omar are all exponents of that same single-minded attitude and dedication to those in need. There isn’t a quiet period or downtime in the Ethar calendar – as long as the team has strength, it keeps working towards its humanitarian goals. This is the only way to turn the tide of suffering and misery that has engulfed the world’s most disadvantaged people.
What does ‘Ethar’ stand for?
In the early days, many thought that ‘ETHAR’ was an acronym that stood for Eritrea and The Horn of Africa Relief. This is indeed a useful way to describe the origins and work of the charity. But the deeper meaning of ‘Ethar’ is actually derived from a word of Arabic origin, meaning altruism, love, and affection – the urge to give to others the very best of what you have, and facilitate for another person something better than what you yourself could achieve. ‘Ethar’ literally means selfless giving in the spirit of unconditional love, and symbolises everything Sultan Omar and the entire Ethar Family stands for.
The Ethar Family
In addition to hard work and selfless service, Sultan Omar has instilled a supportive family environment into the Ethar team, wherever they are located in the world. The ‘Ethar Family’ is built on respect, support, and mutual values. This provides a constant reminder of the charity’s humanitarian purpose to every member. It is also a source of limitless and unconditional love, celebrating the beautiful phenomenon of people brought together for the sole aim of serving others. Crucially, the Ethar Family is not just a network of staff, volunteers, partners and supporters – the Ethar Family includes the refugees and beneficiaries themselves. There is no distinction between the needy and those who give; they are united in humanity and love towards each other.
In the words of Sultan Omar, founder of Ethar:
“We are in awe of our beloved friends that are located across the world, who have responded to Ethar’s message with all their heart. They have believed in the cause and raised the voice of the forgotten refugees in hearts, homes, and communities across the globe. Through them, refugee issues are being noticed, and every year a few more people remember the forgotten.”
Ethar Relief invites all who read this to get involved in humanitarian causes that are dear to your hearts, so that compassion and service to others spreads across the world like a wave. We all have the capacity for great kindness, and we can change the world by exhibiting that kindness to those who really need it.
Support the forgotten refugees of East Africa and Yemen by contributing to the ‘Saviours’ fund. To find out more, visit their website or call +44 121 309 0230 to discuss what your sponsorship pays for.
Ethar Relief is a UK-registered charity established to help refugees, as well as displaced and disadvantaged people, in the Horn of Africa region. Ethar was set up by former refugees from Eritrea who survived the harshest conditions in the refugee camps of East Sudan. Ethar wants to end the suffering that it knows exists in these places.
The year 2021 signifies Ethar’s 15th year providing humanitarian support to refugees.
In addition to providing aid and a comprehensive programme of development projects, Ethar strives to raise awareness of refugees in the region, who are considered to have been forgotten by the international community. The UN Refugee Agency has stated that international aid for the vast number of refugees that flee conflict in the region is inadequate, and much more needs to be done to avert the ongoing humanitarian crises in East Africa and Yemen.
The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.