Saji Cheriyan poses for a photograph in front of the mosque he built in Fujairah.
Mohamed Al Waselah, Staff Reporter
Indian Christian Saji Cheriyan, who built a mosque the previous year accommodating 1,000 worshippers at a cost of Dhs1.8 million, is still continuing in his charity deeds towards the poor Muslims. This year in the Holy Month of Ramadan he provides full Iftar meals for around 1,000 fasting people daily. Such a charity gesture is a milestone that highlights the peaceful coexistence of different faiths in the UAE, which stems from the spirit of religious tolerance rooted in him and his sincere concern for the needy.
Saji has a humane aspect away from the differences of religion, colour or race. His deed stemmed from a personal experience when he saw the Muslim workers facing hardship to go far to charitable tents of Ramadan last year to have Iftar.
That very moment, he decided immediately this year to allocate a luxurious hall equipped with the latest facilities owned by him for the daily Ramadan Iftar. It is located near the mosque, which he built last and dubbed “Maryam or Umm Issa”, following another mosque in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi with the same name. The site of the mosque and the hall will remain etched in the memory of everyone and a witness to the depth of human communication that marks the essence of the UAE, the strength of social cohesion, and everyone’s ability to steer clear of the intolerance of religion and race.
Saji Cheriyan, 50, made the UAE his destination in 2003, after he was in trouble in his homeland India, Kerala.
He had a restaurant before his financial situation deteriorated and his business suffered badly, so much so that he found himself owing Dhs200,000 to a bank. He decided to travel to the city of Dubai, which for him was a dream, a haven and hope for a better tomorrow.
Saji said, “I arrived at Dubai airport at 9pm in May 2003 with Dhs620. I went in a taxi to a hotel in the city that was a dream to me. I spent the first night and spent Dhs100 as hotel fare. I then bought a SIM card. I heard about Fujairah and the opportunities available from two people who were talking near me. I immediately decided to go to Fujairah. I went to an Indian restaurant from which I found an accommodation where I stayed for 3 months. I worked in the field of installing kitchens in houses until the visit period ended. I returned to my home and paid my debt in the bank.
“Then one of the citizens in Fujairah sent me an employment visa in the field of contracting. I came to Fujairah and established a contracting company in partnership with that citizen. We managed over a few years to build more than 35 villas and the bank balance became more than Dhs6 million. Then a dispute took place between me and my partner who forced me to quit the company for only Dhs700,000.”
He continued, “After that, I faced a financial shock with debts of Dhs12 million to people and banks. Thanks to God, one citizen gave me the necessary support after I worked in the field of building materials trading. I developed my business, and became the owner of a fleet of 100 trucks. I also invested in the field of labour villages, and succeeded in obtaining an area of 70,000 square metres in Hail area in Fujairah, where we built 800 rooms in the city currently rented by 52 companies for more than 4,500 workers.
“I share the fasting of the holy month with the Muslims, and every day I refrain from eating and drinking in solidarity with the Muslim brothers. I take Iftar daily with the fasting people in the multi-purpose hall, which I allocate on Friday as a cinema for free to entertain the workers, especially since they do not have the wherewithal to pay for cinema tickets,’ he said.
“The humanitarian deeds and the constant prayer of Muslims after the opening of the mosque prompted me this year to implement the Iftar project. I contracted with three restaurants in Fujairah to cater for the fasting table with a variety of delicious foods and natural juices. Drawing a smile on the faces is worth more than a million dirhams,” he added.
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