The Beautiful Sacrifice

11 June 2021

Support for the forgotten Eritrean refugees comes in many forms. In my work I see both sides of the humanitarian crisis – on the one hand, I see people suffering in terrible conditions; on the other hand, I also see people eager to help in any way they can.


The message I received from an elderly woman today moved me to tears, and I have sought her permission to share it with you.


She sent me this picture of a pair of old gold bangles. They belonged to her mother who passed away years ago, and the earliest memory she has of them exceeds 40 years. As Eritrean refugees now living in Saudi Arabia, the bangles represent a precious connection with a long-distant heritage. The woman who called me is not wealthy, and in fact these two pieces of jewellery were the only thing of value they possessed in their household.


The woman had kept the bangles safe all these years for the sentimental connection they had with her mother, and to pass down to her own daughter as a gift and a family heirloom. This treasure was more than gold: it was a treasure of memories, emotions and feelings experienced by a family of migrant refugees finding their feet in a new land.


Due to the lockdown situation in her home in Saudi Arabia, the woman felt the biting need to raise money to pay for essential supplies. She started to consider whether they should take the bitter decision to sacrifice the bangles and sell them, in order to get the supplies they needed to live comfortably. But then she thought against it and decided to make do. After all, the bangles were more important to her than anything else.


But then she had another thought. If she was willing to sacrifice the bangles for an urgent need, then why not do just that? What about her forgotten Eritrean sisters and brothers still trapped in refugee camps across the sea? Was their need not urgent?


These bangles don’t exist any more. They have been melted down and sold on. The elderly woman has sent the money that she received for them to her daughter with the message: Give this money to Ethar Relief, and pray for the ones who wore these bangles.


The woman’s voice is happy and content in her message to me. The bangles which have brought her joy and good memories will now go on to benefit those who need urgent help.


This is the test of love. The love for what is really beautiful, and lasts forever. She loved another’s need more than the most precious thing in her possession.


I was lost for words for a long time after receiving that message. I pray that we learn something from this woman’s beautiful example and reflect it in our actions.


Remember the forgotten.