The first Festival of Encounter (مهرجان اللقاء) organized by JRS Jordan on Friday 24th June, brought together over 500 people, all coming from different countries such as Yemen, Eritrea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Palestine. They shared the event with Jordanians and foreigners working for international organizations.
The Festival, held at the Greek Catholic Church “Our Lady of Fatima” in Jabal Amman, aimed to celebrate the diversity of the refugee communities JRS works with, and that enriches our Jordanian society.
This day of celebration wanted to portray the cultural and artistic expressions of all refugee communities JRS serves, accompanies and advocates for, and it gave light and voice particularly to the non-Syrian refugee communities whose stories and presence are often unseen and unspoken.
At the event, members of refugee communities were showcasing traditional dresses and items from their countries, and visitors could discover something new about their countries and listen to their stories.
Throughout the day visitors could also enjoy a bazaar of handmade products by refugees, traditional food, and various activities for children. “Puppets World” brought to the stage a show about inclusion and integration, and the clowns Asem & Aboud let the children play together and enjoy their clowning show. Later, the courtyard of the church “Our Lady of Fatima” came to life with traditional music and dances from Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan.
“What was also touching was to see people from Somalia, Sudan and other countries dancing at the dabke played by a Syrian group, and everyone simply enjoying dancing together on the rhythms and songs of so many different countries”. At night, the audience got close to the stage to enjoy the live performances of Iraqi music, Levante songs, theatre, afro-dance and zumba from the Jesuit Center Dance group (TJDG), the Sudanese Band for traditional Music, K-Pop from Aptopus, and rap from D.W.A. The performers were from Iraq, Jordan, Sudan, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Eritrea, Mozambique, Germany, and Italy.
The comments of the audience were overwhelmingly positive. One guest from Jordan said that he felt like he wasn’t in Jordan, but that he was traveling through all these different countries. Another guest from Jordan said “I didn’t know there are refugees from these countries in our society!! I discovered something new”. Also, someone said that “We want something like this every month”. A participant, from Sudan, said that she really appreciated the location chosen for the event, because it is very close to the communities of refugees, many of whom live in Jabal Amman.
Father Nader Sawooq (parish priest of the Greek Catholic Church “Our Lady of Fatima”), who kindly hosted the event in the parish spaces, said that such an initiative is in compliance with Pope Francis’ invitation of “integrating refugees in our communities”.
Siqiao Laing, a student from China that collaborated in the past with JRS on a tutoring project between JRS students and Chinese students, shared these words with JRS: “It is indeed such a meaningful event to connect refugees in Jordan with Jordanians, foreigners, and each other. […] When I heard the multiple languages people spoke around the stage, when participants with different religious affiliation embrace each other, encounter happens. It’s there. Everybody feels it. […] The festival is an assembling of solidarity at this space and time, yet beyond it.”
Silvia Mazzocchin, Communications Manager for JRS, said that what made JRS team happy the most was to see the large number of guests and to hear these positive comments from the participants. They proved that both the local and refugee communities in Amman have interest to participate in such an event, to have the chance to present their countries and traditions, and to have the possibility to meet all together and learn from each other.
“For us, hearing these comments was the best success, it made us feel that the festival managed to reach its main aim: to bring to light the presence, stories and precious culture that the refugee communities bring with them, and to let people from so many different origins and walks of life be together to enjoy music, dances, and this moment of true intercultural exchange and Encounter!
There are few possibilities in Amman for these communities to meet and interact together, and we are glad that we could facilitate and make this possible” she says. She adds: “We hope that the great result of the festival can be a positive message and sign for our society, to consider diversity as an enrichment and not as a barrier. And also the positive result of the festival reinforces our commitment to the work and efforts we’re doing at JRS, to make everyone feel home, accepted and respected, and to give a voice to all the communities of refugees living in Jordan”.
Story from Silvia Mazzocchin at JRS Jordan.
Photos by Rajiv Raman.