Film explores the reality of the migration crisis

09 June 2017

ADILA AHMED

Interfaith: Mahmoud Mostafa (left), Jo Winsloe Slater, and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, were panellists for a discussion about faith groups’ response to the refugee crisis, organised by Humanity’s Heart, at the launch of the film

Interfaith: Mahmoud Mostafa (left), Jo Winsloe Slater, and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, were panellists for a discussion about faith groups’ response to...

A YOUNG Syrian mother was in the front row of a screening in London last month for a film exploring Europe’s response to the migration crisis.

Rahaf Al Ghalyoun, who lives in the UK and features in the film, described the decision to leave behind her extended family in Syria as “the most difficult”. Her father died suddenly while she was living in Jordan, “without me having a chance to say goodbye”.

The film, Humanity Rising, made by Humanity’s Heart, is the work of Tazeen Dhunna Ahmad, who travelled to Calais, Lebanon, and Greece to explore the migration crisis and the experiences of volunteers trying to support those on the move. She has established a crowdfunding appeal to raise money to support nine NGOs helping refugees, and to fund further films on the crisis.

The screening took place on the day after the Manchester attacks (News, 2 June, 19 May) and began with a minute’s silence. Dina Ariss, a Syrian activist who works with the Refugee Design Council, said that the news reminded her of Aleppo, a city she had left behind in 2012. The audience also heard from Dr Abdulkarim Hussein, who was a neuro-surgeon at a large hospital in northern Syria before being granted asylum in the UK last year. He described crossing the Mediterranean in a boat of more than 100 people, designed for 25. He has received help from the charity RefuAid and the community group Elmbridge CAN, and is currently living in a vicarage.

The film explored the classification of people as refugees and migrants, fears about security, and the ways in which faith groups had responded to need. A repeated argument made by many contributors was that reality was different to that portrayed by “the media”.

“Through this project I’ve come to realise that, in tandem with the extreme challenges faced by those fleeing wars and tyranny, the refugee crisis is also giving birth to extraordinary examples of humanity with thousands turning up to help refugees irrespective of media, religious, and political biases,” Mrs Dhunna Ahmad said. “They are choosing to believe in the power of humanity above all else.”

The film features several faith leaders; and the audience heard from others at the launch. Mahmoud Mostafa, a Sufi scholar, suggested that “goodness is a chain. One person takes a step, however small it is, and then other people are connected to it. We see one person act from their heart and it motivates us to do the same. There is no step that is too small.”

The film trailer is available at https://vimeo.com/198832787.

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