(MENAFN- Jordan Times)
AMMAN — In a day of celebration, visitors to the Festival of Encounter found themselves immersed in the culture of refugee communities from the region.
Held at the Greek Catholic Church“Our Lady of Fatima”, the event on Friday was hosted by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an international organisation that advocates for refugees and displaced persons.
The event had over 500 attendees, including members of refugee communities from Yemen, Eritrea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Sudan, in addition to Jordanians and other foreigners working for international organisations, according to a JRS statement.
“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,” the statement said.
The festival began with a cultural fair and children's activities including juggling and a puppet show. Later in the evening, individuals and groups took the stage sharing stories, music and dances from their cultures.
Throughout the day, refugees participating in the event sold homemade food from their homeland and attendees could walk through an all-day bazaar where members of these communities sold hand-made products.
Eva Alassaf, from Syria, stood behind one of the tables at the bazaar. A creative designer, she graduated from a university in Jordan with a degree in human resources management. Today, she owns a small business she began two years ago selling handmade crafts.
“I love my business, everything about it,” Alassaf told The Jordan Times.
Alassaf noted that she learned her art after graduation. She began her business working out of her home as a form of income because she was unemployed, explaining that she sells her items at bazaars like this and posts photos of her work online to promote business.
At another table, Rahaf Alauobi and her mother were selling handsewn pendants and bookmarks, among other items.
Alauobi told The Jordan Times that her mother first learned the skill in school and that each piece can take hours to make. She added that her mother is often tired after finishing one, noting that“my mom made these with all her love.”
The duo, from Syria, began the business four years ago, and has found success selling their handmade items.
“A lot of people don't know how to use this fabric or how to hand make these. So, my mom started to buy supplies and make them. People really like to buy these because they are handmade, not machine made. They are hand knit,” Alauobi added.
Other stands sold jewellery, food and a variety of other handmade items made by members of the refugee communities that the JRS serves.
“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,” the statement said.
The JRS received positive comments from the guests and audience throughout the day, the statement added.
Attendees attested that they felt like they were travelling through different countries and learned about refugee groups they did not know could be found in Jordan.
“We want something like this every month!” One testimonial in the statement read.
The statement continued, stating that the JRS hopes that the success of the event reflects their commitment to helping refugee communities and efforts to make“everyone feel home, accepted and respected, and to give a voice to all the communities of refugees living in Jordan.”
“We hope that the great result of the festival can be a positive message and sign for our society, to consider diversity as enrichment and not as a barrier,” the statement noted.
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