Not long ago, Aleteia published a story about a couple in Brazil — Victor and Ana Paula Ribeiro — who decided to use their wedding banquet to feed 160 poor children instead of having a traditional celebration. Their story has gone viral. In Nigeria also, a young couple, Gbede Senenge and Joy, decided to spend one of their happiest days with people who have a lot of bad days – this couple had their wedding with refugees at an IDP camp in Benue state, Nigeria.
However, it turns out these couples were not the first to do something of the kind: a story recently resurfaced about a Turkish couple who did something similar, on an even larger scale.
In 2015, Fethullah Üzümcüoğlu and Esra Polat were getting married in Kilis, a city near Turkey’s southeastern border—the border shared with Syria, where a civil war started in 2011. Aware of the plight of Syrian refugees — in 2015, Turkey was hosting approximately two million of them — the couple decided to invite some 4,000 of those neighbors in need to share their wedding banquet.
It was Ali, the father of the groom, who came up with the idea of sharing the celebration with the refugees. He told a local newspaper that “he hoped others would do the same and share their wedding celebrations with their Syrian brothers and sisters”. He told the paper he was happy that the couple could begin their lives together with this “selfless action.”
Photos of the event show the bride and groom, in formal wedding attire, serving food to the guests from a food truck. To make this happen, they worked with Kimse Yok Mu (“Is Anybody There?”), a faith-based Muslim charity that was providing food for 4,000 refugees in Kilis, along with many more refugees in Turkey and throughout the world. In this case, Fathullah and Esra used the money they had received as wedding gifts from their families to fund the special meal.
“I was shocked when Fethullah first told me about the idea but afterwards I was won over by it. It was such a wonderful experience. I’m happy that we had the opportunity to share our wedding meal with the people who are in real need,” said the bride.
The groom said he was very satisfied when he saw the refugees enjoying the occasion. “Seeing the happiness in the eyes of the Syrian refugee children is just priceless. We started our journey to happiness with making others happy and that’s a great feeling.”
That was four years ago, and sadly, the situation hasn’t improved.
As individuals and families, there isn’t much we can do on the larger scale to resolve the multiple persecution crises and problems of poverty throughout the world. However, we can follow the example of Fethullah and Esra Polat (and of the Brazilian couple and Nigerian Couple) and share some of our own blessings with people in need who are near to us. If we can bring joy and consolation to even just one person in need, we will have changed a life and given hope to a desperate situation