Tzu Chi celebrated the triple occasion of Buddha Day, Mother’s Day and Tzu Chi Day on 12th May 2019, one week after the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan began. On this day, the Tzu Chi Ramadan aid distribution team in Jordan held a Buddha Bathing Ceremony in a tent area occupied by Syrian households for the first time. The event marked an important milestone for the Foundation since it officially obtained its international charity license in Jordan on 23rd January 2019.
The first Buddha Bathing Ceremony in a Syrian tent area
On 12th May, a group of Tzu Chi volunteers arrived at a village near the Zaatari Refugee Camp in the province of Mafraq in Jordan. The volunteers were going to hold a Buddha Bathing Ceremony in the home of a Syrian refugee named “Mariam”, and joined the refugees as they broke their fast.
70-year-old “Mariam” fled Syria in 2012 and stayed in a refugee camp in Jordan until 2017. Her family members previously stayed in tents just like any other refugees. After gaining some financial stability, they began building brick houses. They have planted some flowers and trees in front of their houses and grow broad beans at the side. There is a sheep pen built behind the kitchen. When “Mariam” arrived in Jordan, there were 20 households in her extended family. Today, the family has expanded considerably and consists of 27 households with 145 members.
The Buddha Bathing Ceremony was the first held by Tzu Chi after it officially obtained an international charity license that is recognised by the Jordanian government. The volunteers set up a Buddha Bathing altar at the balcony of “Mariam’s” residence. The flowers needed for the ceremony were taken from the back yard of the house of Chen Chou-Hwa, the head of Tzu Chi’s office in Jordan, while the flower vases were made of used plastic bottles. Tzu Chi Taiwan volunteer, You Mei Yun, also brought some paper lanterns to decorate the venue.
After You Mei Yun explained the significance of the Buddha Bathing Ceremony to everyone, Chen guided “Mariam’s” family to offer fragrant water, flowers and light to the Buddha, and to make good wishes with sincere piety.
Tzu Chi volunteers also let the children wipe their mother’s hands to express their love and filial piety. Then, the young ones kissed their mother’s hand and touched the hand with their foreheads.
The first night time aid distribution
As the sun set in the evening, the hills, gullies, trees and land were enveloped in twilight before gradually “disappearing” into darkness. During the Buddha Bathing Ceremony, a group of people was busy preparing dinner for everyone in the small kitchen. At 7.25pm, the volunteers joined the extended family of more than 100 members as they broke their fast. Out of respect for their Tzu Chi friends, the Syrian hosts specially prepared vegetarian dishes for dinner that night. And the volunteers were touched by their thoughtful gesture.
After dinner, a special night-time aid distribution was conducted by the volunteers outside the house. It was pitch dark outside. Fortunately, Chen brought five solar lights for the Syrian family, and they provided some light in the night. However, due to insufficient lighting, Chen held another light in his hand and turned on the headlights of the cars as the aid distribution event commenced.
In the cold of the night, the love and care from the volunteers warmed the hearts of the refugees, living out the spirit of Ramadan, which is about charity, forgiveness and helping each other.
"Thanks to the Tzu Chi commissioners and all other Tzu Chi brothers and sisters from Jordan and Taiwan, (for helping so many needy households tide over their hardships) during the month of Ramadan," said Chen.
At this time, the surrounding cities in the distance were already brightly lit, while the desert area around the village was in total darkness. However, there was a carnival-like atmosphere with singing and dancing in the village. After the aid distribution ended, “Mariam’s” son played some lively Arabian music on a radio, and led the children of various ages perform a traditional dance as a show of hospitality to their Tzu Chi guests. Then, two adorable children performed a skit with the key message that one should not deceive others and must always be honest and upright.
Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan also played a few lively Taiwanese Tzu Chi songs to enliven the atmosphere. The string of performances included an Arabian monkey dance, wedding songs and dances, Taiwanese songs and dances, etc. Tzu Chi volunteers and members of “Mariam’s” family actively participated and showed off their dancing skills. The joyous occasion came to an end after ten o'clock at night as the children had to go to school early in the morning the next day.