Dance Beyond Borders produced Refugee Week Malta for the first time in 2022, materialised by our inquiries into serviceable action we can take as locals to contribute towards integration in Maltese society. The ethos of Refugee Week allowed us to envision a future for Malta, one which is different from the current trajectory. Refugee Week allowed us to dream, to welcome visions of kinship, where our collective community actively advocates for a more unified community that celebrates diversity and highlights our shared humanity.
Refugee Week Malta centres around three action pillars; Create, Connect and Cultivate.
- Create stems from the desire to celebrate creativity and aims to make or bring something inventive and/or new into existence, like a solution to a problem, new method or a new artistic output.
- Connect invites us to be open to receiving people in their wholeness, acknowledging that the term ‘refugee’ is just one part of a whole identity of a human being. It is in part listening to people’s stories and concerns, but it also means paying attention to people’s response by noticing who seems uncomfortable or lost, and to explore how we may bring them into this conversation.
- Cultivate holds the notion that there is a possibility to inspire new perspectives and novel ways of intercultural conversation, exchange and interaction.
As we prepare for Refugee Week Malta 2023, we celebrate the inaugural edition and in retrospect, evaluate the events that brought us closer to the dream of a culture of care that urged us onto this journey.
March for Peace
The ‘March for Peace’ organised on World Refugee Day in 2022, was one momentous event.
Originally this event was developed in conversation with the Mayor from the Marsa locality – a locality which has an intercultural population of people that lives in segregation. Together with the Mayor, we carefully developed the event to align with the interests of all who live in Marsa. We spoke about the importance of people coming together as ‘one body’ in the name of peace.
However, despite months of coordination and the support of the Community Police and Police Superintendent of the area, we were not able to launch the March for Peace in Marsa. The Mayor chose to let the awful actions of a few people – two acts of vandalism incidents by two people from the asylum seeking community during a local ‘Festa’ (Feast) celebration – represent the larger asylum seeking community. Because of this, the mayor decided that he no longer endorsed the March for Peace and that it can no longer take place in Marsa as originally planned.
We understand that vandalism affects people’s quality of life by damaging or destroying things that they need or care about. This makes people feel that their lives are less safe and we truly empathise with the Marsa community. Needless to say, we were deeply saddened by the outcome of this decision. We felt that this could have been a chance for Marsa to take a stand as a locality that tackles conflict head on, contributing toward the possibility for much-needed healing for all of the residents living in Marsa. The opportunity for the local council to lead by example of Good Governance that addresses wrongdoing without stereotyping the larger community. We believe this could have been an opportunity to offer reconciliation and showcase how people from different communities can be together in peace and harmony.
The day of the March
With the help of the community, within a demanding and pressured 72 hours, we were able to gain a Permit to have our March in Valletta, the island’s capital. The intensive 3 days felt worth it, as over 90 people gathered to walk together in solidarity and in support of everyone who has had to leave home to seek refuge in Malta.
Our dance experiences have led us to know deeply the power of the body, but we weren’t prepared for this kind of magic. The magic that comes with becoming one body, a collective body, in the name of togetherness. We walked aware of those behind us, those beside us and those ahead of us.
Our unified pace was deliberate, leaving no person behind. As we took up space, all eyes on us, we marched in silence marching through the capital city, where we demonstrated our willingness to connect beyond Ethnicity, beyond Religion and beyond Culture. We walked in celebrations of our differences and of our uniqueness.
During the March for Peace, we discovered the power in silent gatherings, we discovered the weight of words when they were finally spoken by leaders from the community and we realised that this was the start of something bigger than us; a peaceful call for a movement that welcomes, a demand to continue showing up for each other and a hope to exist in communities centred around care and compassion.
Our closeness represents the Care we have for each other
We are aware of those behind us, those beside us and those ahead of us.
Our pace is unified, leaving no person behind
We are willing to connect beyond Ethnicity, beyond Religion and beyond Culture.
We walk in celebration of our differences and of our uniqueness
We are here together in full Support of this moving community
In 2023, on the World Refugee Day 20 June, we will March for Peace once again, we invite you to do so too.
Watch a fantastic video of Refugee Week Malta 2022 here
Guest blog written by Dance Beyond Borders (Producers of Refugee Week Malta)
Image Credit: March for Peace, 20th June 2022, Valletta, Malta. Photo by Joanna DeMarco