• Khalsa Aid founder Ravinder Singh gives food to a boy at their bakery near the Syrian border.null
  • Langar Aid serving Syrian Refugees in Serbia.null
  • Khalsa Aid in Lebanonnull
  • Khalsa Aid founder Ravinder Singh gives food to a boy at their bakery near the Syrian border.null

After news of the Islamic State's ghastly crimes in Iraq and Syria started pouring out last year, Ravinder Singh, the founder of Khalsa Aid, a UK-based non-profit group founded on the Sikh principles, travelled to the region to see how civilians could be helped.

Singh went to Erbil in Iraq and near Duhok close to the Syrian border last August, where he started a branch of the Khalsa Aid, called Langar Aid, through which he helped provide food to those who had fled Isis atrocities and lived in refugee camps.

The langar is a core part of the Sikh faith, in which every gurudwara offers food to people of all religions and backgrounds.

But being a Sikh charity worker came with riders for Singh and his team, as they were often mistaken for Isis militants because of their turban and beards.

"I have been mistaken for being an Isis member or an Arab, especially among refugees. We had to be extra careful, and assure the people around us that we were only there to help," Singh told IBTimes India.

"We provided food and aid to many Assyrian Christians in Erbil and to Yazidis in the Kurdish region near the Syria border, both of whom had been persecuted by Isis," he said.

"They would show us photos of girls who were abducted by Isis and family members who were killed. We heard very raw, emotional tales of suffering. And I feel that the world has particularly let down the Yazidis, who belong to one of the oldest religions," Singh said.

Langar Aid has provided food and machinery to local workers and have been preparing food in buildings provided by the local Kurdish officials.

"I must commend the Kurds for doing the best they can to take care of so many people and providing power to these camps. The bakery near the Syrian border serves up to 14,000 people," he said.

Near the Syrian border, Singh and his team were aware that Isis were just a few kilometers away.

"Thankfully, we did not see any shelling or violence near our camp at the border. But when I was walking on the street in Erbil, a car bomb exploded just a few hundred meters away," Singh, who is currently in the UK, recounted.

"We have to be very careful in such places. You never know which car can blow up near you. But we have chosen to be here and we continue with our service," he said.

As a Sikh volunteer, Singh and his team also had to face the extra challenge of making sure the people they were helping did not feel threatened by their turbans and beards.

"Every time I walked into a camp, the refugees would look at me, and I had to ascertain that I was not an Isis member," Singh said.

Khalsa Aid has also set up a base in Lebanon where thousands of Syrian refugees have fled to, and the team has helped provide books and materials to a local school and are also sending wood to ensure the refugees have protection against the harsh winter.

They are also supporting refugees from the Middle East, who are seeking sanctuary in Europe, with operations to provide hot meals, water and clothing in Serbia, Croatia and Greece.

Those wishing to help Khalsa Aid and Langar Aid in their service can check details on their website.

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