When a Christian charity keeps a madarasa running

Source: The Hindu

At a time of unprecedented violence and unrest in parts of the world over the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims, a heartening example of communal harmony and respect for other faiths is being set in a nondescript gali at Sundar Nagari in East Delhi.

Three years ago, a madarasa for girls and the feisty nonagenarian woman who founded and ran it surmounting great odds, fell into tough times. The madarasa had to close down and Saleeman Bi was on the verge of destitution when a Christian charity, the St. Stephen’s Hospital community outreach programme, stepped in to help.

The hospital’s Community Health Centre which performs door-to-door medical check-ups on people living in the vicinity found Saleeman in a pitiable condition. She was suffering from bed sores, her hair was infested with lice and there was no one to take care of her. She was also depressed that her madarasa had to shut down. From that day Saleeman became “Amma” to the centre’s doctors and nurses.

Saleeman claims she is over 100 years old; the deep wrinkles that run across her forehead and the shrivelled skin on her face suggest that she could be right. “I started the madarasa 30 years ago because I wanted forgiveness for any sins I have committed. I believed this would help me attain heaven after I die,” says Saleeman. Her husband had pronounced talaq on her nearly 80 years ago. She then accompanied a relative to Delhi and has lived here ever since. Saleeman worked hard to earn a living selling milk and oil, taking up weaving and even agricultural work.

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