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The Climate Journey: From Bangladesh to Paris

The Climate Journey: From Bangladesh to Paris

This time last year I was travelling to Bangladesh to the coastal areas to see Islamic Relief Bangladesh Climate Adaptation Livelihoods projects. Looking back, the people I met along the way have truly touched my life in ways more than I ever imagined .

We took out Islamic Relief activists to meet the people benefiting from our UK Aid Match project. We are helping some of ultra-poor people in some of the remotest places that have been worst hit by Cyclone Aila. It was a trip which opened my eyes to a world of widespread climate disaster and a strength of resilience that I never knew was possible.

Many of the people we met had been affected by floods several times over. The waters took their loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods. Yet these same people I met, often had smiles on their faces, like the boy in the picture below, who asked about me and the Islamic Relief team after we met him during our visit to a Disaster Management Committee set up by Islamic Relief.


We travelled to a place called Gabura, first taking an internal flight of an hour and then taking a three hour boat ride, packed into a craft alongide with Islamic Relief life jackets, passing fishing nets lying on the islands and flood warning poles planted into the soft earth. This trip truly made me realise that the reality for our field staff is reaching the worst affected people in the remotest areas.

I met old men, women, children and even a man who had his leg bitten off by a tiger. All of them said how the support for agriculture, new homes with solar power and training on dealing with disasters helped them deal with the consequences of climate change. This is the purpose of Islamic Relief Worldwide – to save lives, because by saving one life it is as though we save humanity. Yet during my journey, those very people living in conditions that are far removed from our lives in the developed world – were some of the kindest, happiest and most grateful souls I met.

There are so many encounters, lessons and reflections from this humbling trip that I can’t begin to recollect all those moments where I felt a deep sense of warmth and relief in my heart when meeting one of the beneficiaries of Islamic Relief. Their dignity and seeing their smiles on their face is why we must continue to strive to make a difference.

As I drew the curtains close on the night before we flew back to London, I felt a heaviness in my heart and all I could do was fall to my knees and pray. I prayed so hard as tears streamed down my face – for the journey I had been on, for the awakening that climate change does affect us all, but worst of all that the actions of us in the developed world have left millions to live in situations that are unbearable.

I cried because I felt the burden of a huge injustice and I cried because I knew there were thousands of people we could not reach or help due to the scale of the loss of lives that climate change causes. I made a vow then to do what it takes to be an advocate and voice for those people I met, and since then we have seen Muslims taking climate action.

The recent Paris talks where activists called for Climate Justice Peace is just the beginning, not the end. There is a long road ahead. There is still a great deal of work to be done, and I pray and hope that in the year ahead we can do more to get climate justice for the people like those I met in Bangladesh.

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