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A newspaper promoting integration and diversity in Malta January 2014

Malta’s Documented History In Danger

The Maltese Tenor On Multiculturalism

Jasen Ogle

Side by Side

The world-renowned Maltese tenor, Joseph Calleja, appointed as Maltese Cultural Ambassador almost two years ago, spreads the word about the Maltese Islands wherever he goes. Side by Side asked him a few questions in a short interview and here’s what he told us: Side by Side (SBS): Is multiculturalism/ integration important to you? Why? Joseph Calleja (JC): Multiculturalism is important to everyone as it is happening whether a society wants it or not. Continued on Page 3

© josephcalleja.com

Love & Food

George Orwell once said, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” If he is correct, then prepare to be destroyed, as Malta’s written history is in danger of being lost. Perched upon the towering shelves of Malta’s National Library, one can find books covered in holes which insects have tunnelled their way through. Others are stained with the sweat of Malta’s humid climate and some would even appear to crumble to dust if disturbed.

There are about 750,000 books in the National Library. There are books in the library which have not been moved in over 200 years. A complete catalogue of the library’s archives does not exist yet. However, through the efforts of the National Library and New Leaf - a non-governmental voluntary organisation - the archives left behind by the Order of Saint John are being preserved, electronically catalogued, digitised and archived. Continued on Page 6

I had never even heard of Malta and yet I found myself on the island in the summer of my twenty-fifth year. I arrived almost by accident -- I was living in my native country of Canada and my neighbour relocated to London. She

invited me for a ‘beach holiday’ in Gozo to visit her retired parents. I had just finished my incredibly demanding and challenging undergraduate degree, I quit my handful of part-time jobs, and I had left a long term relationship a few months prior. I was young and free and ready to shed who I was and have an adventure. I spent three weeks under the hot July sun in Gozo (the temperatures that summer were on record). I was enchanted by the dusty island and its quiet solitude. I took long dips in the sea at Xlendi and Ħondoq ir-Rummien; I drank bottles of Cisk for pocket change; I ate too many pastizzi and gorged myself on the delicious food on offer. I learned how to make Ħobż biż-Żejt and acquired a taste for the local tomato. I took many photographs, each one reminding me how far away from home I was; how different this culture is from my own. Continued on Page 9

Simshar: Bringing Maltese Realities To The Big Screen

All Maltese Plants And Animals Are Immigrants!

Passion And Commitment In Maltese Boxing

“My Name Is Karmenu, And I’m From Malta.”

Sacha Staples

© Jasen Ogle 2014

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Courtesy of Sasha Staples

General Programme Solidarity & Management of Migration Flows 2007-2013 European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (IF) Project part-financed by the European Union Co-financing rate: 75% EU Funds: 25% Beneficiary’s Funds Sustainable Management of Migration Flows

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January 2014

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Editorial Dear reader, Welcome to the second edition of Side by Side, Malta’s first newspaper promoting diversity and integration in Malta. SOS Malta is publishing this newspaper with Third Country Nationals in mind. But who are Third Country Nationals? According to the European Commission’s definition, Third Country Nationals are persons who are not citizens of their country of residence in Europe and are not Citizens of any other Member State

of the European Union. Through this newspaper, SOS Malta wants to raise awareness about the different cultures that are present in Malta. Side by Side’s January issue offers you a myriad of articles including experiences of various Third Country Nationals who call Malta their home such as Kevin and Rama Krishna from India, Laiq Ahmed Atif from Pakistan as well as Canadian Sacha Staples who shares her journey to finding love. Integrating in Malta means familiarising yourself with local habits, food and culture

and adapting to them. You can read about Malta’s written heritage on pages 6 and 7, and the island’s natural habitat and how it migrated here on page 13. You will also find an interview with Rebecca Cremona, director of ‘Simshar’ and actress Clare Agius on page 12. Side by Side also features a number of opinion articles featuring the topic of diversity and integration along with a page of useful information on embassies, high commissions, consulates and local organizations.

I hope you enjoy reading the second issue of Side by Side and I urge you to read our last issue which will be published late in April.

The Editor

Bartek Romanczuk bartek.romanczuk@sosmalta.org www.sosmalta.org/sidebyside

Living Together In Diversity Maria Theresa Portelli

transforming culture to respect diversity. We learn from people who have different experiences, beliefs and perspectives on life. Diversity thus enriches the educational experience and promotes personal growth and a healthy society. Diversity has the potential of strengthening a society because the influence from different cultures with various beliefs and ideas gives rise to a society which is more open-minded

and dynamic. This creates acceptance, contributes to reduce racism and challenge stereotypes in societies. Therefore, we should celebrate the differences and respect diversity. For more information contact the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) on 2590 3850, equality@gov.mt or on Facebook.

Diversity: The variety of experiences and perspectives which arise from differences in race, culture, religion, mental or physical abilities, heritage, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics.

Managing diversity involves:

SOS Malta’s Aims and Activities SOS Malta is a registered Voluntary Organisation, set up in 1991, which works with local and international partners. The organisation assists socially disadvantaged groups in improving their quality of life by providing support services and opportunities to implement development and change. SOS Malta also encourages advocacy on behalf of social causes and promotes models of good care and practice. SOS Malta works on four pillars that encompass the above objectives. These are: Social Solidarity; Volunteering; Overseas Development; and Research and Training. Side by Side falls under the Social Solidarity pillar. Under this pillar SOS Malta implements projects advocating for increased intercultural understanding and the introduction and implementation of measures which contribute towards the two-way process of integration and social inclusion of migrants living in Malta. Contact Details SOS Malta, 10 Triq il-Ward, Santa Venera, SVR 1640 Tel: +356 21244123 Email: info@sosmalta.org Website: www.sosmalta.org Facebook: SOS Malta Voluntary Organisation Registration No. VO/0033

An environment where different races live together changes the way you view yourself and the world. When you are surrounded by persons from different parts of the world and coming from all walks of life, you realise that the world is divided by subtle differences and you begin to appreciating the enormous diversity around you. Recognising diversity means understanding how peoples’ differences and similarities can be mobilised for the benefit of the individual and society as a whole. In society today, diversity is beneficial because it gives people the chance to experience different aspects from what they are accustomed to. In fact, each person plays a key role in

• • •

Acknowledging people’s differences; Recognising differences as valuable; Preventing discrimination and promoting inclusiveness

A society without differences is hard to imagine; thus we should not consider these differences as an obstacle, but should rather see them as an essential part of life.

There never were, in the world, two opinions alike, no more than two hairs, or two grains; the most universal quality is diversity. Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92) French essayist

Council of Europe, ‘All different – All equal’ Education pack

Exploring Diversity Through Education Bartek Romanczuk

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai

Last December the Japanese Association visited the school and gave a lesson on Japanese Origami. The students worked in teams and made two Origami Christmas Hollies

Since I was a little kid I have always heard a particular phrase ad nauseam: “education brings about change”. And now that I am no longer a child, I was struck by the words of Malala Yousafzai, the well known Pakistani schoolgirl and activist to the rights of education, specifically education for women and youths. With the quote above in mind, I thought of exploring what is happening in the field of diversity and education in Malta. St Thomas More College came together to organise a group promoting diversity within the school. The organisation, ‘Living Diversity’ is led by Shirley Galea Riani, one of the teachers, who shared a thorough overview

of how this small group that started last year is flourishing. Shirley speaks with passion about the group’s activity, which she and her colleagues, Sarah Azzopardi and Doreen Muscat, carry out with the constant support of the school’s Senior Management Team. The group began with the premise of changing the mindset that being different is wrong, with intent to broaden others’ knowledge so as to appreciate differences. “Children teach us important lessons in life – they want to know and experience – so we try to use that positively and change fear into curiosity.” Shirley told me. Continued on Page 3


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The Maltese Tenor On Multiculturalism

Fear Of Diversity Continued from Page 1. Malta is a prime example of multiple cultures fusing into one and I think anyone would struggle to find such diversity on such a small footprint anywhere in the world. SBS: Do you talk about Maltese culture and traditions in the places you visit? JC: Maltese culture is not in imminent danger but we are losing a lot of our traditions. It pains me to see that so many Maltese choose to scorn or look down on our ‘folklore’, often seen as the doings of the “lower class” by those who should know much better. I, of course, promote Malta no end around the world but I guess our trademark, for hundreds of years, has been our kindness and the fact that we are good natured, positive people. This is the general perception by those who know our islands. SBS: As the Maltese Cultural Ambassador, do you think your role can be conveyed successfully through your music? How? JC: What my music does is create awareness about Malta. Given our size and limited global importance, we need to take every opportunity for exposure we can get. I have yet to meet a journalist, tv or radio presenter who is not genuinely interested in this small rocky island with 7000 years of history, its own language and fully independent to boot. SBS: What have you learnt from being exposed to diverse cultures? JC: People are scared of what do they not know or understand. Having said that, I don’t think the majority of the Maltese are racists. Of course, there are weak elements in our society who have given in to bigotry and xenophobia and it is up to the rest of us to fight these phenomena by education, education and more education on both sides.

Side by Side

© josephcalleja.com

Continued from Page 2. Students are heavily involved in the ‘Living Diversity’ group, which implements the notion of ‘experiential learning’ – learning by doing. Students are asked to choose the themes they want to discuss: the topics for this scholastic year are fashion, art, music, food and religion, and through the activities, students can get to know more about various traditions in other

a walk-through history of the country, food-tasting, music, henna, and sessions on Arabic calligraphy and Arabic language. The Kuwaiti display is an annual event organised by Kuwaiti students attending the University of Malta.

During a visit to the Kuwaiti Celebrations at the University of Malta, the students are admiring the Kuwaiti jewellery

During the month of October the students talked about India. One of the activities included setting up an Indian wedding. This image shows the bride and groom who are throwing rice into the fire; a ritual which represents prosperity in their new life.

cultures. To give some practical examples, when talking about India, the group set up an Indian wedding simulation: during this celebration the bride and groom throw rice into the fire: a ritual which represents prosperity in their new life. Sometimes, guest speakers are invited to hold sessions for the group. Members from the Japanese Association visited the school last December and gave a lesson on Japanese origami – the traditional art of paper-folding. Students had the opportunity to work in teams and create origami Christmas hollies. “What is ‘Taameya’?” Those coming from the Middle East/North Africa would instantly give you an answer - it is a popular snack, also known as ‘falafel’, made from chickpeas. The word itself means ‘nourishment.’ Students had the opportunity to cook and eat this dish when they were talking about Egypt. The firstknown appearance of the legume fritters was reported in Egypt. During a visit to the Kuwaiti display at the University of Malta, students forming part of the ‘Living Diversity’ group had the chance to learn more about the Kuwaiti culture and admire their jewellery. Activities also included

Last year we talked about Egypt and the students had the opportunity to cook and eat the Tamiya, an popular snack in the Middle East made from chickpeas.

Today, we need to be culturally-competent. Learning a language can be a stepping stone to build bridges between different cultures. In the image on the left, a student from China took the teaching role and showed her peers Chinese calligraphy. Students had the opportunity to try out calligraphy using paint brushes and Chinese ink. The ‘Living Diversity’ group is a beautiful example of how education can be used to widen knowledge of traditions brought by different cultures. It also teaches us an important lesson: in order to appreciate diversity we need to move beyond seeing diverse cultures from a distance but to dive in and explore these cultures to expand our own knowledge and recognize that there is no culture which is superior to any other.

Prof. Arnold Cassola The fear of diversity in Malta is great. If you are a migrant with a darker skin, the fear perception is even greater. But do we know that Maltese people have been migrating for centuries? Do we know, for example, that a sizeable community of Maltese was certainly living in the Sicilian town of Trapani during the course of the fifteenth century? Whilst one could justify a substantial number of Maltese living in the capital Palermo or in the Sicilian towns nearer to Malta, such as the ones on the eastern coast, like Ragusa, Siracusa, Catania and Messina, how is it that inhabitants of Malta settled down in good numbers in Trapani, which lies furthest away from Malta, on the north-western tip of Sicily?

Some Maltese might have escaped from Malta in order to avoid paying debts incurred on our island. However, it is also possible that, due to the long periods of scarcity and hunger that hit the Maltese islands in the first half of the 15th century, the Maltese were attracted to Trapani, especially during the reign of Alphonse of Aragon (1416-1448), because, thanks to its close ties with Spain, it had become an important beehive of economic and commercial activity. Honofrio from Malta was the first known Maltese migrant to Trapani in 1418. On 14 October of that year, Julianus de Missina, a resident of Trapani, sells Honofrio, who was also living in Trapani, a three year old horse for the price of 16 tarì. On his part, Honofrio promised to pay off the whole sum within the month of June, 1420. A few days after the first act of sale, he entered into another commercial deal. This consisted in a métayage agreement (for cultivation of land) whereby Thomeno di Magister Angelon, an inhabitant of Trapani acting on behalf of his sister in law Preziosa, was giving in métayage, on a fifty-fifty basis for two years, a vineyard situated in contrada Rachalgidi to Honofrio Maltensis. During this month of October 1418, Honofrio was taken up by intense business activity, so much so that again a few days later, on 23 October 1418, together with his partner Andrea, he entered into another métayage transaction. This time it was the Trapanese citizen Raysio Nicolaus Luchivello who gave to Honofrio and Andrea a vineyard situated in contrada Putei on métayage terms, together with the loan of a sum of 31 tarì, which was to be given back during the following grape harvest. The typical insolia grape variety is mentioned as a produce of this vineyard. Honofrio was the first of at least 51 Maltese working in Trapani in the first half of the fifteenth century. These Maltese people, six centuries ago, would have possibly been branded as ‘klandestini’, ‘immigranti illegali’ in today’s terminology. Yet, they worked hard, integrated culturally and socially with the local people and eventually became part and parcel of the local Trapani population. Today, six centuries later, there are at least 90 families in Trapani whose name is Maltese or Di Malta. The original Maltese migrant has blended perfectly with the local population. Maybe we should look at these past models in order to appreciate the value of migration today.


January 2014

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Malta’s Leaders Have Their Say On Interculturalism L-Eċċellenza Tiegħu Dott. George Abela, President tar-Repubblika ta’ Malta

Xi jfisser l-interkulturaliżmu għalik? L-ewwelnett nixtieq nirringrazzjak ta’ din l-intervista fil-ħarġa tal-gażżetta tagħkom. Huwa dejjem ta’ pjaċir kbir għalija naqsam mal-poplu ħsibijieti dwar temi importanti, u naħseb li f ’dan il-każ b’mod partikolari. Għalija l-interkulturaliżmu huwa l-ilsien komuni li bih titħaddet id-dinja globalizzata tal-lum. Mhemmx għalfejn wieħed imur ’il bogħod biex jifhem li bir-rivoluzzjoni li ġabu magħhom ilmezzi ta’ komunikazzjoni il-pajjiżi, il-popli u l-kulturi tagħhom qorbu aktar lejn xulxin. Huwa każ li tassew tgħid li sirna villaġġ globali. Kemm taħseb li hija interkulturali Malta? Malta hija multikultrali u dejjem aktar qed issir hekk. Norbot ma’ dak li għedt qabel, il-lum it-taħlit tal-popli m’huwiex għażla imma realta’ li saret parti mit-tessut soċjali ta’ kull pajjiż, in-

The Prime Minister Of The Republic Of Malta

What does interculturalism mean to you and how important is it for Malta? Malta is capable of embracing different cultures. History has proved this. For many years we have built a succesful synergy with people

Il-Kap tal-Oppożizzjoni Dr. Simon Busuttil

Xi jfisser l-interkulturaliżmu għalik? L-interkulturaliżmu jfisser li mhux biss nittolleraw iżda li ngħożżu u li nitgħallmu mir-rikkezza tal-kulturi differenti li jinsabu fis-soċjetà tagħna. Illum il-ġurnata, is-soċjetà tagħna hi magħmula minn nies li ġejjin minn bosta kulturi differenti, b’ideat, stili ta’ ħajja u perċezzjonijiet li huma għalkollox differenti minn xulxin. Soċjetà interkulturali ma tħarisx lejn dawn il-kulturi differenti b’mod passiv, iżda tagħtihom valur u tqishom bħala importanti għall-progress u għall-iżvilupp ta’ dik l-istess soċjetà. Kemm taħseb li hija interkulturali Malta? Mingħajr dubju s-soċjetà Maltija hija magħmula minn persuni minn ħafna kulturi differenti. Sas-sena li għaddiet, pereżempju, l-iskola primarja ta’ San Pawl il-Baħar kienet

dipendentement minn kemm hu ekonomikament żviluppat. Dan ifisser li pajjiżna kellu jibda jħares lejh innifsu b’mod differenti, fis-sens li jekk qabel konna nqisu lilna nfusna bħala ġeografikament u sa ċertu punt ukoll soċjalment pajjiż maqtugħ mil-bqija tad-dinja, issa sibna rwieħna inter-konnessi permezz tax-xibka ta’ komunikazzjoni li waslet f ’pajjiżna wkoll, kif ukoll it-taħlit ta’ żwieġijiet bejn Maltin u barranin minn nazzjonalitajiet differenti. Jien indur l-iskejjel kemm pubbliċi, privati u reliġjużi u nista’ nikkonferma kemm għandna numru kbir ta’ studenti ġejjin minn pajjiżi differenti tad-dinja. Għalhekk għall-mistoqsija tiegħek dwar kemm Malta hija pajjiż interkulturali, inwieġeb li hi skont il-pass li bih qed tinfetaħ għad-dinja u l-opportunitajiet li din iġġib magħha. Kemm hu importanti l-interkulturaliżmu f ’pajjiżna? Personalment inħoss li għal pajjiżna l-interkulturaliżmu jibqa’ fattur importanti ħafna, kemm għal għarfien akbar tas-sehem tagħna bħala poplu attiv fuq livell internazzjonali u dak li jseħħ lilhinn minn xtutna, kif ukoll għalina bħala individwi li rridu niżviluppaw ir-relazzjonijiet tagħna fi sfond ta’ soċjeta’ aktar inklussiva, tolleranti u lesta taqsam l-esperjenzi tagħha ma’ ċirku akbar ta’ bnedmin. L-istorja tal-poplu tagħna turina li kulmeta tħallatna ksibna ħafna esperjenza u sirna poplu b’identita’ iżjed għanja u kapaċi tiddistingwi ruħha aktar. Dan inħoss li għandu jibqa’ jkun il-kejl li bih inkejlu l-progress li jagħmilna dak li aħna, mhux tant dak li għandna imma dak li aħna.

X’tip ta’ attivitajiet jistgħu jsiru biex jgħinu lil persuni minn pajjiżi terzi biex jintegraw? Bla dubju li l-isfidi għal integrazzjoni akbar kienu u għadhom jinħassu ħafna f ’pajjiżna, l-aktar meta d-diskors jaqa’ fuq l-immigranti irregolari. Hawn nemmen li xi wħud għadhom jibżgħu li din il-forma ta’ integrazzjoni tista’ tkun ta’ theddida għall-kwalita’ ta’ ħajja li jgħixu! Dan forsi huwa riżultat ta’ snin twal ta’ ħakmiet barranin li tawna idea x’aktarx protettiva ta’ kif inħarsu lejna nfusna sal-punt li l-importazzjoni ta’ ideat u kulturi ġodda fostna inftehemet bħala sors t’allarm iżjed milli waħda ta’ opportunita’. Għaldaqstant filwaqt li jien nevita li niġġeneralizza, nipperferi nassoċja ċerta mġiba bħala waħda prinċipalment immotivata minn biża’ minn dak li hu ġdid u sa ċertu punt ‘differenti’. Liema hu l-iktar wirt Malti importanti għalik? Għaliex? Għalija l-akbar wirt li għandu dan il-poplu hija l-familja. Dan ngħidu b’mod partikolari fi żmien meta qed isiru ħafna tibdiliet li jekk ma noqogħdux attenti jistgħu faċilment jeħduna lil hinn mis-sens ewlieni tal-valur propju ta’ din ir-realta’ li sawret u nittama tibqa’ ssawwar l-identita’ sħiħa tal-poplu tagħna. Skont stħarriġ li sar f ’dan il-proġett, l-ikel huwa wieħed mill-aktar fatturi li jgħaqqdu n-nies - liema hu l-aktar platt favorit tiegħek fejn jidħol l-ikel Malti/ikel barrani? L-Għaġin il-forn u l-ħobż biż-żejt huma l-ikliet favoriti tiegħi Liema hi l-iktar belt għal qalbek f ’Malta/barra minn Malta? Għaliex? Naturalment inħoss raħal twelidi li hu Ħal-

Qormi. Togħġobni ħafna Firenze bħala belt kulturali bl-ikel bnin tagħha. Messaġġ qasir għall-Maltin li qed jaqraw dan il-ġurnal / Messaġġ għall-persuni li ġejjin minn pajjiżi terzi. Lil ħutna Maltin u Għawdxin nawguralhom is-saħħa, l-għaqda u d-dehen li jibżgħu għallvaluri sbieħ li għandna bħala poplu u li dejjem iddistingwewna. Lil dawk li ġejjin minn pajjiżi terzi nixtieq ngħidilhom ma jibżgħux ikomplu jintegraw fis-soċjeta’ u l-kultura tagħna. Il-fatt li ġejjin minn pajjiżi differenti għandu jgħin biex tikber l-opportunita’ li naqsmu l-ideat u noħorġu b’opportunitajiet ġodda li jgħinuna nibnu l-preżent u l-ġejjieni ta’ uliedna aħjar minn dak li sibna aħna. X’messaġġ għandek għas-suċċessur tiegħek? Fi tmiem din il-Presidenza, il-messaġġ tiegħi lis-suċċessur tiegħi hu li jkun dejjem qrib il-poplu u li jassigura li dejjem ikun il-vuċi anke siekta ta’ min hu bla vuċi u vulnerabbli. Matul il-ħames snin li ili fil-Presidenza kelli x-xorti niltaqa’ direttament mas-saffi differenti tas-soċjeta’ tagħna u dan għeni nifhem aħjar id-dinamika ta’ kif qed jevolvi pajjiżna fit-tajjeb u l-ħażin tiegħu. Il-President jibqa’ l-gwardjan tal-Kostituzzjoni li min-naħa l-oħra hija l-ogħla espressjoni tal-identita’ sħiħa talpoplu tagħna. F’dan is-sens imorru flimkien il-fatt li l-President iżomm viċin tan-nies li jirrappreżenta fl-ogħla kariga kostituzzjonali, filwaqt li jħares dawk il-valuri intrinsiċi li jagħmlu lil dan il-poplu wieħed dehen tal-wirt li kiseb mingħand ta’ qablu u responsabbli ta’ dak li se jħalli warajh fil-ġejjieni.

of different cultures. We have reached out, and given a welcoming home, to thousands of foreign people. We have learnt from this experience and, together, progressed economically, socially and culturally while safeguarding national interest. What activities can help Third Country Nationals to integrate better? A lot more can still be done. I believe education and communication are the crucial tools to break down stereotypes and foster more respect and acceptance. Misunderstandings can, and will, arise but I am confident of our ability to build more cooperative relationships with people of all races and ethnicities. I recall an initiative taken by the Senglea local council back in 2008. EU funds were tapped to hold an intercultural dialogue with refugees residing at the open centres, Maltese professionals and foreign nationals living in Cottonera. The sessions involved children from the primary school and Junior Lyceum participating in debates with refugees. Such

an activity, recognized by the Intercultural Dialogue Regional Championship Award, should act as a perfect example of events which can be organized to encourage citizens, particularly from a young age, to set aside potential fears and reach across cultural boundaries. Malta has the potential to attract the most reputable people around the world. Their talents and their ideas will be part of Malta’s success and identity. Their contributions will be a valuable investment in our country’s education system, health sector, job generation and social services. According to a survey conducted for this project, food is an element that unites - what is your favourite local and foreign dish? Why? On a personal level, I would opt for the traditional bebbux bl-aljoli as my favourite local dish. The snails with aniseed gravy and red garlic paste is synonymous with Malta’s cuisine and mainstay in typical Maltese restaurants but also when dining at home. I must admit that the Indian cuisine is another favourite of mine which I consider as a delicacy through

the blend of spices, herbs, vegetables and fruit. Which is your favourite city abroad? With regards to my favourite city, this must be the Italian capital. I consider Rome as an amazing and exciting destination which celebrates culture and history with its beautiful architecture, panorama and art. Your short message for Maltese nationals and a short message for TCNs living in Malta: My message to the Maltese people is to keep in mind that Malta has an important role to play in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea. Different regions and continents around us can offer experiences, opportunities and innovations to our citizens. Therefore, open up to different cultures, to those people becoming part of our nation in a legal manner. The foreigners already residing in Malta can vouch that, when treated with respect, our people excel in warmly embracing different cultures. So, my message to them would be to keep actively participating in the Maltese life and contributing to future of this island, small in size but large in aspiration.

tħaddan fiha studenti ġejjin minn 33 nazzjonalità differenti. Nemmen li maż-żmien, is-soċjetà Maltija qed issir dejjem aktar interkulturali. Dan kemm minħabba influwenzi interni, bħar-relazzjonijiet li qegħdin niffurmaw ma’ xulxin fuq il-post tax-xogħol u fuq livell soċjali, kif ukoll minħabba influwenzi esterni, bħall-impatt ta’ mezzi ta’ komunikazzjoni ġodda u s-social media. Jiena nħoss li hija l-ġenerazzjoni żagħżugħa li hi l-iktar interkulturali fil-mod kif tilqa’ u tħares lejn kulturi differenti. Naturalment, għad hemm ħafna xi jsir biex is-soċjetà tagħna ssir verament interkulturali, u għalhekk nemmen li s-soċjetà tagħna tinsab fi transizzjoni. Kemm hu importanti l-interkulturaliżmu f ’pajjiżna? Jiena nqisu bħala importanti ħafna, kemm għall-individwu kif ukoll għal pajjiżna. Għandna ħafna x’nitgħallmu mill-esperjenzi differenti ta’ xulxin. Kuntrarju għal dak li ġie li nisimgħu, il-kulturi differenti jsaħħu lis-soċjetà u l-identità tagħna u mhux idgħajjfuha. Soċjetà li tintegra lil kulħadd u li ma twarrab lill-ebda mill-membri tagħha hi soċjetà b’saħħitha. Dan hu importanti mhux biss għaliex l-inklużjoni twassal għal tisħiħ u sense of belonging tal-individwu, iżda għax twassal lis-soċjetà biex tkun aktar kreattiva, ambizzjuża u innovattiva. X’tip ta’ attivitajiet jistgħu jsiru biex jgħinu lil persuni minn pajjiżi terzi biex jintegraw? Soċjetà interkulturali jrid ikollha istituzzjonijiet li jiffaċilitaw l-integrazzjoni, inkluż strutturi li jgħinu biex individwu jsir jaf aktar

dwar il-mezzi prinċipali ta’ komunikazzjoni, fosthom lingwi u għodda oħra, kif ukoll l-istrutturi soċjali li bihom tiffunzjona l-komunità li jgħixu fiha. B’hekk, kull min għandu d-dritt jgħix f ’pajjiżna jkun jista’ jagħmel dan b’mod sħiħ. L-aktar mod effettiv għall-integrazzjoni sħiħa tal-individwu hi permezz tas-sistema edukattiva, kemm għal min qed jasal f ’pajjiżna, kif ukoll għal tfal Maltin li jridu jħaddnu l-prinċipji ta’ soċjetà interkulturali. Liema hu l-iktar wirt Malti importanti għalik? U għaliex? Fl-opinjoni tiegħi l-aktar wirt Malti b’saħħtu u importanti huwa l-kapaċità tagħna bħala nazzjon u anke bħala emigranti barra minn pajjiżna tul is-snin li naddattaw għall-bidla. Il-fatt li Malta hi kollezzjoni ta’ gżejjer żgħar, influwenzata minn kulma jiġri madwarna, kebbset fina l-għarfien li rridu nkunu flessibbli, ħabrieka, u kapaċi ndawwru l-isfidi f ’opportunitajiet. Dan l-aspett ta’ dak li jagħmilna Maltin hu evidenti fl-istorja, kemm fiż-żmien meta użajna l-pożizzjoni ġeostrateġika ta’ pajjiżna biex żviluppajna industrija marittima b’saħħitha għal sekli twal, sa riċentement meta sirna membri sħaħ tal-Unjoni Ewropea. Skont stħarriġ li sar f ’dan il-proġett, l-ikel huwa wieħed mill-aktar fatturi li jgħaqqdu n-nies – liema hu l-aktar platt favorit tiegħek fejn jidħol l-ikel Malti/ikel barrani? Għaliex? Jiena nqis ruħi Mediterranju għax jogħġobni ħafna l-ħut, l-insalata biż-żejt taż-żebbuġ u ħwawar oħra. Meta nkun mal-ħbieb inħobb nipprepara mezze, jiġifieri platti differenti bi

ħxejjex, taħlit u ikel ieħor tipiku għax nemmen li huwa ideali għal attivitajiet soċjali. Għalhekk inħossni komdu ħafna kull meta nżur pajjiżi oħra fil-Mediterran, bħaċ-Ċipru, Spanja u l-Greċja, għax l-ikel u l-ingredjenti favoriti tiegħi huma komuni kullimkien fil-Mediterran. Liema hi l-iktar belt għal qalbek f ’Malta/ barra minn Malta? Għaliex? Hu diffiċli ħafna għalija li nagħżel belt jew raħal li nista nqisu bħala “favorit”, għax kull belt jew raħal f ’pajjiżna għandu storja x’jirrakkonta. Pero jekk ikolli nagħżel post naħseb li nagħżel il-belt kapitali tagħna, ilBelt Valletta, li apparti l-istorja u l-arkitettura meraviljuża tagħha toffri wkoll lenti fuq l-istil ta’ ħajja varjata tagħna. Barra minn Malta, bla dubju ta’ xejn, il-belt favorita tiegħi hija Pariġi għaliex tixgħel bir-rikkezzi storiċi, artistiċi u kulturali tagħha. Messaġġ qasir għall-Maltin li qed jaqraw dan il-ġurnal u messaġġ għall-persuni ġejjin minn pajjiżi terzi. Il-messaġġ tiegħi huwa l-istess kemm għallMaltin kif ukoll għal dawk li ġejjin minn pajjiżi terzi: ilkoll għandna ħafna x’nitgħallmu minn xulxin, u l-apprezzament tal-esperjenzi ta’ kull wieħed u waħda minna jikkontribwixxi sabiex ikollna soċjetà aktar innovattiva, aktar konxja ta’ dak li qed jiġri madwarna u għalhekk, soċjetà aktar b’saħħitha. Nixtieq nieħu din l-okkażjoni biex nawgura sena ġdida mimlija risq u saħħa lill-editur, kontributuri u lill-qarrejja kollha ta’ Side by Side.


January 2014

5

NGOs Have Their Say On Interculturalism Carla Camilleri

Aditus Foundation

What does interculturalism mean to you? I would say that interculturalism means the ability to be aware of and to understand one’s own culture and the foreign culture and how both effect any interaction between people be it at work, at university or socially, in entertainment areas, on a bus etc... How intercultural do you think Malta is? The total foreigner population in Malta has increased from 11,999 in 2005 to 20,384 in 2011, with migrants hailing from all over the

Maria Pisani

Integra Foundation

What does interculturalism mean to you? The term ‘interculturalism’, as is the case with ‘multiculturalism’ is a contested term. Whilst the term is not new, it has received increasing interest over the past few years. As I understand the term, ‘interculturalism’ refers to a process rather than a fixed reality. This process aims to be dialogical in as much as it aims to create spaces for individuals and groups within society to interact, discuss, to share different and common perspectives and to work together. Interculturalism also reflects a shift away from essentialised identities, and

globe Albania, Peru, Tunisia, Ukraine, Ghana, the United States and so on. Whether we, as Maltese, see the potential of the cultural diversity that exists is another thing, as many studies show that minority communities in Malta still face discrimination in various spheres of life such as employment, housing, education, healthcare as well as local political participation. How important is interculturalism for Malta? I would say that interculturalism and the recognition of the benefits of migration are the big challenges that Malta will be facing in the years to come, particularly when taking into consideration the numbers I spoke about earlier. This is of particular importance since cultural diversity in all sectors of life in Malta is an ever growing reality and the existence of prejudices can have a profound long-term impact on society itself. What activities can help Third Country Nationals to integrate better? I think that at this stage, a comprehensive

government policy and action plan on integration of TCNs is needed, before one can start thinking about singular activities that could help. Without a solid foundation on which to work on and with activities being implemented in isolation, I fear that many of the benefits will be short-term and lost in time. Which Maltese Heritage is most important for you? Why? I am not whether as such it is “Maltese” or “Heritage”, however I think that the importance that we still tend to give to the family, including extended family and friends, is what makes Malta a good place to live in. After that it must be imqaret… According to a survey conducted for this project, food is an element that unites - what is your favourite local and foreign dish? Why? That’s a difficult question since I love cooking and food, I would say imqaret with ice-cream (a bit of fusion there) as a local dish and for foreign food it depends on the

mood: Vietnamese curry, Eritrean injera and spicy meat stew, Lebanese mèzes and Chinese dim sums... Not in any particular order of preference ! Which foreign and local city is dearest to you? Why? I love Valletta, the view from the upper Barrakka gardens still remains one of my favourite ones… the buildings are old and crumbly and no matter how many times you’ve walked down any one street, you always find something new to look at... As my grandmother says: “in Valletta you have to walk looking up at the buildings”. London, is my favourite foreign city, as I lived there for two years and it became my second home. It is a melting pot of music, food, art, politics, fashion and a lot of bustle! Your short message for Maltese nationals and a short message for TCNs living in Malta. I would give them the same message: “Explore and enjoy the differences, have patience and a meal together”.

recognizes the multifaceted individual, for example, I may be a Maltese national with a Maltese father, and an American mother, a German husband, a Muslim and black and with Maltese children: I cannot fit into a neat box, my identity is hybrid and cannot be pigeonholed and increasingly, this is the reality of many Maltese nationals. As such, interculturalism recognizes the fluidity and complexity of each and every individual and challenges the essentialist and static notion of individuals and ethnic groups. However, that said, we must also be careful not to ignore or cast aside the power structures that exist within society: structural inequalities in relations to age, dis/ability, class, gender, ethnicity, ‘race’, sexual identity and legal status, amongst others, remain, pushing some individuals and groups to the margins of society. Social exclusion is detrimental to these individuals and groups, and indeed Maltese society in general. How intercultural do you think Malta is? I believe Malta is a culturally diverse country, made up of many different ethnic groups, be they Maltese nationals or migrants. On a day to day level there is intercultural dialogue: at work, at school, on the bus, in the supermarket and so on. However, certain individuals and groups do face exclusion as a result of discriminatory attitudes, stereotypes, fear and racism - and this can - and indeed already is - leading to isolation,

ghettoisation and social fragmentation: this is a lose - lose situation for all. How important is interculturalism for Malta? Malta’s history is based on migration; the geographical position of the islands, combined with 7000 years of colonialism is testimony to Malta’s experience as a hub of migration and intercultural dialogue. In an increasingly globalized world, migration has intensified and trajectories have diversified. Malta is part of this global change. Interculturalism is important for every country: Malta is no exception. What activities can help Third Country Nationals to integrate better? Opportunities to give voice, to get to know the ‘other’, to embrace diversity, to engage in dialogue - not only to ‘celebrate diversity’ but also to engage in difference and also challenge inequalities - this isn’t always easy, but it’s about acknowledging differences and creating spaces to agree and disagree, to build trust, to develop a sense of belonging, and work towards inclusive communities. Which Maltese Heritage is most important for you? Why? All of it! Malta has a fascinating history, and I’m proud to be Maltese. That said, my Nannu was in the British army when Malta was colonized by the British, as a result, I am Maltese, born of Maltese parents, but I was

born in Germany and spent my formative years in England. My family and I returned to Malta 27 years ago...so to a certain degree my life experience has been determined by this colonial, and geopolitical reality - so I think it is this history of colonization, and Maltese migration that interests me more than anything else, and how it has impacted national identity and ‘Malteseness’. According to a survey conducted for this project, food is an element that unites - what is your favourite local and foreign dish? Why? I love tea in a glass with tinned milk! It reminds me of my Nanna, and I love going to a Maltese każin and ordering ‘te’ ġo tazza u pastizzi’ - it something I only do in Malta. And I love Asian food, particularly dim sum - I enjoy the way the food is served. Which foreign and local city is dearest to you? Why? I have a number of ‘favourite’ spots in Malta, but I think Lapsi is probably top of my list – it’s beautiful, and I also have a lot of childhood memories - Lapsi was a constant for me. Also Mdina, it’s quite special. Abroad? I think Florence is a particularly beautiful city, but I’m not really a city person... Panajachel, Guatemala. Your short message for Maltese nationals and a short message for TCNs living in Malta. More of a message for all really: let’s talk.

According to a survey conducted for this project, food is an element that unites - what is your favourite local and foreign dish? Why? Too many to mention, depending on my mood I eat or cook accordingly Which foreign and local city is dearest to you? Why? Rome and St. Julian’s - they are my home away from home and my childhood home, places that have contributed to making and shaping who I am today.

Your short message for Maltese nationals and a short message for TCNs living in Malta. Change is beautiful, especially because it is challenging. Openness is a two way process. I believe that the concept of otherness we often associate with interculturalism or multiculturalism is bridged and internalised, the minute we identify in the differences we all have. We all must be open to building relationships, accepting diversity, valuing it, and living it out as best we can.

Alba Cauchi

Organisation for Friendship in Diversity (OFD)

What does interculturalism mean to you? The encounter with difference that moulds a reality into a new one that is stronger and more colourful one than the previous one: a source of learning, and a key for reflection, primarily of who we are, as individuals and as a community at large. How intercultural do you think Malta is? Over the years Malta has definitely opened up to a world of difference, European mobility has contributed to opening our physical borders and mental frontiers. I think we are still in early stages but it is definitely a developing reality and an ongoing process. How important is interculturalism for Malta? Extremely! I am a firm believer in the power of difference and complementarity. For a country such as ours where people are its primary

resource, the encounter with the other needs to be harnessed with an open mind and be seen as a means of growing, strengthening and adding value to an already colourful reality. What activities can help Third Country Nationals to integrate better? This is always an interesting thing to evaluate, I’d say both ad-hoc events where the promotion of diversity is purposeful, but also rather than activities that are one off, opening and re-evaluating the current reality to see that it is truly open to welcome differences whether local or foreign. The truth is I believe that the key lies in an open society that caters for difference, full stop, be it local, national, international, gender, different ability, opinion etc. Integration comes from a society that is open and willing to embrace difference, therefore a paradigm shift is needed across the board. Obviously ad-hoc efforts always help those that appreciate the diversity and commonalities are they through music, art, sport or shared history and shared values. Which Maltese Heritage is most important for you? Our language, as it is the reflection of a people that to a certain extent has always been open to growth, change and outside influence, while still managing to reshape its identity over time. We are the product of difference, colonial past, nationalism, trade, migration, exchange, links, and crossroads.


January 2014

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Malta’s Documented History In Danger Volunteers Needed Jasen Ogle

Continued from Page 1. The vast majority of the books and letters in the library were left by the Order of St John. After his passing, four fifths of a knight’s possessions were left to the Order. Most of a knight’s possessions consisted of books and letters. One knight left over 9,700 books to the Order. On average, 10 volunteers per week donate their time to the library. They clean books before they can be preserved, catalogued and digitised; but more volunteers are needed. “Raising money is the easy part,” said New Leaf Chairperson, Monique Chambers, who has helped raise €50,000 through private and corporate donations.

Unless you have an array of staff to record the volumes of books available, it’s difficult to preserve them without volunteers

© Jasen Ogle 2014

Digitization studio

Courtesy of the National Library of Malta

“Unless you have an array of staff to record the volumes of books available, it’s difficult to preserve them without volunteers,” added National Librarian and CEO of Malta Libraries, Oliver Mamo. Books are preserved by being taken apart and reconstructed. “It’s like plastic surgery,” Oliver noted. Various machines are used in the preservation process. Some of the machines required include wet and dry vacuums, light boxes, book suction tables, cold suction tables, and conservation and cleaning machines. Funding is needed to purchase new machines and to train volunteers to clean books before they are sent for preservation. With current resources, Oliver estimates it will take 25 years to preserve and catalogue the library’s collection. “It’s not always about money, but about time,” Monique said. An American volunteer came to Malta over the summer just to help preserve books.

Courtesy of the National Library of Malta

Continued on Page 7

© Jasen Ogle 2014

© Jasen Ogle 2014


January 2014

7

Drawings by Giorgio Grognet Courtesy of the National Library of Malta

Damaged book

Restored book

Courtesy of the National Library of Malta

Continued from Page 6. “It is excellent work experience for students, historians, librarians and archivists,” she added. The work is overwhelming, which is why volunteers are needed urgently. “To volunteer, you need to be able to give up your phone for a few hours, which can be therapeutic. You become obsessed with reading about history while you clean these books,” Monique said. “It’s mind-blowing when you read letters of King Henry VIII,” she added. “Volunteering to dust the letters and books becomes very interesting when you come across letters of congratulations from an ambassador or a monarch to another monarch after ascension to a throne,” Oliver added. And for the inquisitive ones, the National Library has its own hidden rooms and secret passages that are used to get from one room to another.

It’s mind-blowing when you read letters of King Henry VIII Although his office is lined on all four sides with carved wooden bookshelves stacked to the ceiling, Oliver’s office has a secret door; the location of which he has not shared with Side by Side. “It’s good for hiding from meetings,” he joked. Descrittione di Malta, the first book on Maltese historiography published by Gian Francesco Abela, who was the Vice Chancellor of the Order and the father of Maltese historiography, was found in Oliver’s office. It is one of his favourite books in the library. “The preservation team takes care of the books as if they were their children. They love talking about them,” Oliver said.

The National Library of Malta houses an important collection because of the holdings of the Order of Saint John. Some of these books are not available outside of Malta Preserving documents at the library is an ongoing process. Over 53 archival collections from Malta were microfilmed by the Malta Study Center of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in Collegeville, Minnesota between 1988 and 1999. The Manuscript Library’s mission is to preserve endangered manuscripts and archives. Over the past 18 years Dr Theresa Vann held the position known as the Joseph S Micallef Curator of the Malta Study Center. Dr Vann is currently working with Maroma Camilleri, Senior Assistant Librarian at the National Library, to electronically catalogue the archives of the Knights. “The National Library of Malta houses an important collection because of the holdings of the Order of Saint John. Some of these books are not available outside of Malta,” Dr Vann said. “I believe the rarest document in the Library is a Papal Bull from 1113 approving the Hospital of Saint John in Jerusalem,” Maroma added. The Pope’s subscription can still be faintly seen on the document. The variety of the library’s books and documents is testament to how rare and precious the National Library’s collection is. The oldest document found in the library is a small piece of papyrus with Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back to 300BC. The Order’s collection includes 60 volumes of incunabula,

Courtesy of the National Library of Malta

which is Latin for cradle. Incunabula are considered to be the earliest printed books, dating back before 1501. Amongst the Order’s collection are Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, which contains an engraved map of the Mediterranean with Malta at its centre.

The National Library provides a unique experience for visitors because these historic books are currently on shelves in plain sight to the viewing public There are also two volumes of Plautus’ Comoedia, and Quintilianus’ Institutiones Oratoriae, which were both left to the Order by Cardinal Joaquin Portocarrero, who died in Rome in 1760. “Guillaume Caoursin’s well-known work Rhodiorum Historia belonged to Fra’ Sabba di Castiglione, another knight of the Order. “The book bears Castiglione’s signature and an autograph note by the historiographer Fra’ Giacomo Bosio,” Maroma told Side By Side. There is potential for the National Library to be opened up to tourism that could help raise funds for the preservation of these priceless books. “The National Library provides a unique experience for visitors because these historic books are currently on shelves in plain sight to the viewing public,” said Dr. Vann. In comparison, other libraries keep their oldest books behind vacuum-sealed glass out of the reach of visitors.


January 2014

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Wish For Others What You Wish For Yourself Laiq Ahmed Atif

Photo courtesy of Laiq Ahmed Atif

Laiq Ahmed Atif President Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta

Due to the ever-new modes of transportation and means of communication available today, the world is now known as a global village. In this global village human immigration is becoming an increasing phenomenon worldwide. In almost every part of the globe we find people of different backgrounds, languages, colours, creeds, nationalities and different religious beliefs living together. This diversity, on one side makes our world colourful, charming, attractive and very lively, however, on the other hand the world is facing some challenges for the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of diverse human society. Many countries have shown their concerns about the increasing immigration and in particular immigration of Muslims into the Western societies. Questions are being raised that is it possible for Muslims to remain loyal to their faith and with their adopted countries? Can Muslims become part of the Western societies? Once immigrants have settled in a new country, what should be expected of them in terms of their degree of integration with their hosts? This is an issue becoming very debatable and there is a crucial need to bring out the realistic solutions for the better and progressive integration of immigrants. I understand the concerns of the Western

I believe that respect towards the law of the land, faithfulness and loyalty with the adopted country is a cornerstone of effective integration countries, and it is true that under the influence of certain ignorant and extremist clerics, some Muslim individuals or groups have a very prejudicial and irrational attitude towards Western nations and non-Muslims. The truth is that this irrational attitude of theirs has nothing to do whatsoever with the true teachings of Islam and practices of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Islam has presented such luminous and realistic principles that their implementation can create integration between diverse groups in the real sense. Before I come to the point of integration of Muslims, it is appropriate to point out two main opposite opinions as far as integration is concerned. There are some who want immigrants to become a complete part of their new culture, even if this means abandoning their customs, language and traditions.

The Fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community very rightly describes the shortcomings of this opinion, highlights the beauty of diversity, he says: “This would be an attempt on par with turning a bouquet of varied flowers, as if by some wizardry, into just one particular flower. We understand from various societies and social systems and the societal evolution that each newcomer brings with them distinct colours and fragrances. This happens in all countries and happens from all sides. To erase the distinctiveness of the outsider and declare the sole existence of just one ‘flower’ in the bouquet, be it a rose or jasmine or some other flower, but not to allow mutual existence in the bouquet is not the correct way to create compromise and uniformity. This mode of action is contrary to the natural societal evolution and nations cannot gain from it in any way.” However, the opposite scenario is also unrealistic and impracticable. When immigrants refuse to assimilate into the host culture and cling on to native languages and traditions, they effectively create a sub culture apart from the one in which they live. This in turn creates difficulties for them and leads to isolation. For a progressive, prosperous and tolerant society, a very realistic and practicable approach is highly essential. As far as integration of Muslims into the Western societies is concerned, it is also a two-way process and both the immigrants and the locals have to play their positive and responsible roles. Both parties should try to live by the principle of give-and-take and show flexibility and benevolence for each other. Everyone should try his utmost to always put responsibilities and obligations before his rights, and should become the one who gives, and not who always takes. As the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, advised that “the upper hand (of the donor) is better than the lower hand (of the receiver).” I believe that respect towards the law of the land, faithfulness and loyalty with the adopted country is a cornerstone of effective integration. The Holy Prophet Muhammad particularly emphasised that love for one’s nation is a part of faith for any true Muslim. When loving your country is a basic element of Islam, how can any true Muslim exhibit disloyalty or betray his nation and thereby forgo his faith? In terms

of Ahmadi Muslims, at our major events all members of the Community, make a pledge and promise to give up their lives, wealth, time and honour not just for their religion but also for the sake of their nations and countries. To be integrated it is necessary to believe the country you live in is your own and you must desire for it to succeed. This is true integration.

love for all hatred for none Freedom of expression, freedom of faith, equality, justice, human dignity and equitable opportunities also play a vital role in the establishment of tranquil and serene atmosphere. Mutual cooperation for the common good, sharing and adopting all positive aspects of each other, and joining hands against every evil will also lead to a positive coexistence. Knowledge of each other’s cultures, customs, traditions and local language are also necessary to break the barriers of misunderstanding, fear and isolation. All the people should show mutual respect and tolerance, and care for the sentiments and feelings of others. Their talks and discussion should exhibit the true sense of community and words should be selected very wisely. The rights of poor and needy, the rights of neighbours, the rights of streets, the rights of the community should all be honoured. The current Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community explains that: “Muslims have been taught that in order to integrate with their local societies and develop mutual respect, they should seek to learn about all of the good aspects of every society, every region, every city and every country. It is not enough to simply learn about such values, but Muslims must endeavour to adopt them into their own personal lives. This is guidance that truly inculcates togetherness and a spirit of mutual trust and love.” Better integration also requires that immigrants must enter with a willingness to integrate with the local people, whilst the locals should be ready to open their hearts and display tolerance, open-mindedness and forbearance. They all should try to truly live by these two golden principles that “wish for others what you wish for yourself” and “love for all, hatred for none,” because these are the essence and golden principles for a harmonious and peaceful integration.

We Were Different Shazia Khan Darmanin Photo courtesy of Shazia Khan Darmanin

Shazia has a background in industrial design, drama and communications. She now pursues a career in TV production and writing.

A steadfast feature of people living overseas is that they huddle together at cafés, bars or restaurants and relate not just about their past but also

on how they are coping in their new home. The majority of the time they are not from the same country. The things that bring them together are the experiences they have in common, the different cultures they bring on the table and the most common thing they share that lingers unspoken, gathering at the helms… Fear! A palpable fear that is present when one moves to a new country and needs to get to know the ‘dos and don’ts’. This is a choice they make to change, evolve, experience the magic of life lessons along with it’ll-be-funny-later humiliations. It was slightly different for me. I did not have a choice. I was plucked out of my mother’s womb and unbeknownst to me I was brought to sunny Malta at the tender age of 3 months. Granted, I could not formulate a sentence, but for years I thought I was Maltese. Yes, we spoke a different language at home. From my part it was broken: fragments of three to four different languages in one sentence. Only the wise could understand me: of course English or Maltese to people outside the family. I was hanging out with neighbourhood kids. I went to school, catechism, parties, picnics, fishing, every other Saturday the children’s cinema day at Alhambra in Sliema, watching cartoons in Italian and had a nanny who would take me on long walks when my

For years I thought I was Maltese parents needed a break from me and my little brother. I did what every normal kid in Malta did. I was happy. However, at the tender age of eight my world was uprooted. My parents decided, once again, without consulting me or my brother to move back to Pakistan. You see, that is where we originally came from… I did not know. I was shocked out of my wits. I could not believe it. It was a totally different world. There were so many people. To pray they would go on their knees and bow. Oh, I did not even know I was Muslim! That was a revelation. It was difficult. I could not speak Urdu properly (one of the official languages), so I ended up speaking mostly English. I dearly missed my friends, the beach and my nanny. I really missed a lot of things, but then the nightmare slowly eased. I got to know my cousins, went to school and ate like a pig. I was also bullied at school for being different, which honestly made no sense, because I looked exactly like them.

Fine, I had a funny accent according to them, but seriously, bully me? I took care of that with a good left hand. However, my parents did what they always did. We were plucked yet again and moved back to Malta, but things were different now. I knew who I was and I was scared. You see, fear reveals the blemishes and bad habits. Slowly I would remember why I had to speak three languages a day, why whenever we had gone shopping in Valletta a total stranger would stare at my dad. I thought it was because he worked as a doctor at the emergency department, but I would remember the puzzled looks. I would remember why people at the shop would automatically speak in English when we could speak Maltese (except for my mum). Or why we had so many more foreign friends than local. We were different. I suddenly felt out of place in Malta and in Pakistan. But for me Malta is and always will be home. It is a love and hate relationship really. I never gave into people’s perception of me. Instead, I let it teach me how to handle difficult situations. I felt I could switch from one culture to another swiftly. Now I think of it as a positive experience that still continues to influence my life like a magical passport to a global citizenship.


January 2014

9

Love & Food Sacha Staples

Continued from Page 1. And then one evening, I met a man. I had seen him in Gozo at the festa of San Ġorġ and was immediately drawn to him. I cannot describe it in any other way except to say that it was electric, magnetic, and incredibly surprising. I did not have the chance to speak to him -- he was on one side of the pjazza and I was on the other -- but I knew, viscerally, that he was significant. I do not know if I believe in love at first sight and I do not know if it was a ‘connection’, but that night, there was a pulse beating from him directly into my heart. Thankfully, destiny stepped in and I saw him again in Malta one week later. Although Malta is small and this may not seem notable, it is -- there were many factors that should have prevented us from being in the same place at the same time, and yet, we were. When I saw him I remember there was a shimmer around him, maybe from the wine or perhaps from the magic of meeting one another again and for the first time. A few days later I left Malta and returned to Canada, but I knew I had left a part of myself on that island. I remembered the way he moved

Courtesy of Sasha Staples

and how he laughed, I remembered the shape of his smile. Now just flashes written upon my memory. Two weeks later I found myself on another plane, flying the same path back to that man. We spent seventeen days together: learning about each other and about our cultures. I think we intrigued each other -- we had different opinions, different influences, different traditions and perspectives. We challenged each other in ways that we had not experienced in prior relationships: I am Canadian and he is Maltese. He showed me the island and I saw it with fresh eyes, his eyes. He was the island’s ambassador and I was the tentative explorer. We went for lunches and dinners, so much of what we did revolved around food. Pizzas in small villages on the Southern tip, cappuccino’s and pastries in Sliema and St. Julian’s, forkfuls of Cassata Siciliana at seaside restaurants; famous pastizzi in Rabat. Food punctuated our conversations and our courtship. And I started to learn and understand the prominent role of food and eating within the Maltese community. Now, five years later, I am living in Malta permanently with my Maltese man and our daughter. Writing these words and remembering how we met; it now feels surreal, like a story spun from gold as opposed to the narrative of my life. Although I still have pangs of homesickness, I feel peaceful and settled in the life we have made here in Malta. Food continues to be an important part of our daily lives, but gone are the days when I indulged in pasta and pizza and Maltese bread with every meal. Since becoming a mother and learning of my daughter’s food sensitivities to wheat and gluten, I have discovered a new way to eat and enjoy food. Avoiding wheat while living in the Mediterranean -- where wheat is a staple of the diet -- may seem like an anomaly, but I have learned that I am not the only one. There is a small, but growing community of individuals on the island who are changing the way that they eat. My parter has adopted my alternative cooking practices – he does not eat any

Courtesy of Sasha Staples

wheat at home, but will occasionally treat himself when he is out. We agree that since we have cut down on wheat we have more energy and feel less bloated. We eat in solidarity with our daughter who cannot have any wheat in her diet. We indulge in local, seasonal vegetables fresh from the farmer. We eat rice, quinoa, lentils, and sprouts in abundance. Local and Italian poultry and meats from the butcher; and cheese from across Europe and beyond. It is not always easy to change, it can be very

I had never even heard of Malta and yet I found myself on the island in the summer of my twenty-fifth year

hard, even impossible. What has always been a unique and important part of our bi-national relationship is our individual ability to explore, experiment, and adapt to each other’s different cultural position. We each bring something unique to the table, whether it is a new perspective or a fresh and healthy meal. Who is Sacha Staples? Sacha Staples is originally from Toronto, Canada and has been living in Malta for the past five years. Her experience as an expatriate in Malta has inspired her to create a blog to chart her new life in her adopted homeland. Malta Notebook is a lifestyle blog in the form of a personal notebook that showcases her interest in culture, literature, art, design, fashion, food, motherhood and travel. She is particularly interested in her role as foreigner within the close-knit island community and how this unique position affords new perspectives on Maltese life and customs.

Moroccan Government Honours Moroccan Community Leader In Malta Bartek Romanczuk

© Jasen Ogle 2014

Around 1000 people in Malta add a touch of Morocco to the rainbow of different cultures present on our islands. Seventy Moroccans became Maltese since 2008. This community is held together by one person, Ms. Dounia Borg, President of the Moroccan Community in Malta, who was appointed Coordinator of the Moroccan National Rally of Independents party (RNI) in Malta on Friday 13th December 2013. During the appointment event, Mr Paul Dalli, a friend and consultant, Mr Martin Chetcuti, Qawra Aċċess Centre Manager, along with a number of other distinguished guests

who were present for the event, shared their very positive experiences of working alongside Ms. Borg. Mr Yahia Sghiri, the Counsillor of the Minister in charge of Moroccans living abroad and Mr Hatim Amrani, who is the Head of Cultural Activities in the Directorate of Cultural Action and Social Ministry in Morocco, were also present for the event. Ms. Borg was described as an energetic person who works hard to achieve her goals for the community. Anyone who attends a Moroccan or a multicultural event where Ms.Borg is present can testify to this. Mr Mohamed Basry, General Consul of the Kingdom of Morocco in Rome stated that he

is ready to assist the community in any issues encountered. Mr Abdesselam Bouhadi of the RNI party in Morocco and the President of the Moroccan Community in Italy, Mr Abdallah Khezraji were also present. They listened to the concerns of the Moroccans who attended and offered their feedback and support. FACTS ABOUT MOROCCO Official name: The Kingdom of Morocco Location: North West Africa Size: 446,550 km2 Population: Over 32 million Capital City: Rabat

Traditional Moroccan Bread Ingredients: 275g white bread flour 175g wholemeal flour 2tbs salt 250ml mixed warm milk and water 2tbs of sesame seeds Yeast preparation 150ml mixed warm milk and water 1tbs of granulated sugar 2tbs of dried yeast

1. For the yeast preparation, place the 150ml lukewarm milk and water mixture in a recipient, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the yeast then stir and put aside in a warm place for about 10 minutes until the mixture bubbles up. 2. In a separate large bowl, add the 275g and 175g of flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and warm milk and water until dough becomes fairly soft. Knead into a ball and knead again on a floured surface for 10 minutes. 3. Divide the dough into two equal parts

and shape into a flattened round shape. Place on floured baking trays and flatten further to produce circles of about 15cm in diameter. 4. Cover the dough with oiled clear wrapping film and place in a warm place for 1-1.5hrs. Allow the dough to raise and when it springs back if pressed. Only then, it is ready to bake. 5. Preheat the oven to 200 oC or gas mark 6 Sprinkle the dough with sesame seeds and bake for 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to 150oC or gas mark 2, and continue baking for a further 20-30 minutes until a golden-

brown colour is achieved. The ready loaves should sound hollow when tapped from below.


January 2014

10

Useful Bodies For TCNs Embassies - Consulates - High Commissions Office

Address

Albania Austria

Telephone

Office

Address

76 Gwardamangia Hill, Gwardamangia PTA 1314

2724 6597

Malaysia

78 Villa Amodeo, Eucharistic Congress Road Mosta

2142 2704

143 Palazzo Marina St. Christopher Street, Valletta VLT 1465

2201 5110

Mali

16 Triq il-Mediterran San Gwann SGN 1871

2138 7010

150 St. Lucia Street Valletta VLT 1185

2123 0680

Telephone

Bangladesh

Delf Buildings Sliema Road, Gzira GZR 1637

2134 5005

Mexico

Belarus

293 Republic Street Valleta

2122 0200

Monaco

Notabile Road Mriehel BKR 3000

2144 8466

Belgium

18A/3 M.A. Vassalli Street, Valletta VLT1311

2123 0893

Montenegro

1 Kaxxetta Building, Triq ir-Rand Attard ATD 1300

2143 6349

The Malta Chamber of Commerce Enterprise and Industry, The Exchange, Republic Street Valletta

Morocco

12 St. Christopher Street Valletta VLT 1468

2205 8000

Botswana

2123 3873

Namibia

300 Republic Street Valletta VLT 1110

2122 5459

Brazil

402, Main Street, Qormi QRM 1101

2158 5802

New Zealand

Villa Hampstead, Oliver Agius Street Attard ATD 3102

2143 5025

Bulgaria

9 Britannia House Level 2, Old Bakery Street Valletta VLT 1450

2125 5265

Norway

Capital Business Centre San Gwann Industrial Estate, Triq Taz-Zwejt San Gwann SGN 3000

2144 8466

Canada

103 Archbishop Street

2552 0000

Panama

147/5 St. Lucia Street Valletta VLT 1185

2124 4784

Colombia

11 Censu Borg Street Hamrun HMR 1163

2124 3238

Pakistan

2125 1411

Cassar Shipt Repair LTD, Slipway 6, Marsa Cross Street Marsa MRS 1549

2124 4500

Chile

Sky Apartments, Block B Flat 2, Marina Street Pieta PTA 9042

Peru

50 Triq it-Tlet Knejjes Balzan BZN 1303

2144 5504

Cyprus

Regional Business Centre, Level 2 University Heights, Achille Ferris Street Msida MSD 1451

2777 2777

Poland

60 South Street Valletta VLT 1103

2124 4306

Czech Republic

7 Pjazza Celsi, Naxxar NXR 2013

2141 3893

Portugal

Level 1, Suite 5 Tower Business Centre, Tower Street Swatar BKR 4013

2549 6000

Ecuador

7 St Chrisopher Street, Valletta VLT 1468

2125 1196

Romania

60 South Street Valletta VLT 1103

2123 2111

Estonia

50A Amery Street Sliema SLM 1703

2137 8888

San Marino

2 St. Ubaldesca Street Paola PLA 1401

2167 4956

Finland

63/64 Gaham Street Sliema SLM 1711

2134 3790

Serbia

274 Main Street Mosta MST 1017

2143 5304

Honduras

98 Old Bakery Street Valleta VLT 1458

2125 1873

Seychelles

Villa Venezia, Ta’ Xbiex Terrace Ta’ Xbiex XBX 1035

2132 4100

Hungary

54 Regent House, Bisazza Street Sliema

2732 0963

Sierra Leone

99 St. Anthony, Lanzon Street Tarxien TXN 1811

2166 3208

Iceland

Continental Cars LTD, Princess Margaret Street Msida MSD

2347 6343

Slovakia

120 St Ursula Street Valletta VLT 1236

2132 2531

India

67 Canon Road, Santa Venera SVR 9037

2122 2346

Slovenia

84 Villa Ika, Good Shepherd Avenue Balzan BZN 1622

2144 1063

Indonesia

21/22 St. Barbara Bastion Valletta VLT 1961

2299 5111

South Africa

14 Lighters Wharf, Grand Harbour Menqa Marsa MRS 1442

2122 7101

Japan

38 Sir Luigi Preziozi Square Floriana FRN 1154

2123 6703

Swaziland

12/9 Vincenti Buildings, Strait Street Valletta VLT 1432

2137 1032

Jordan

389 St. Joseph High Road Hamrun SVR 1015

2144 1463

Sweden

19 Zachary Street Valletta VLT 1133

2569 1790

Switzerland

6 Zachary Street Valletta VLT 1131

2124 4159

Thailand

Royal Thai Consulate 4/4 Regent House, Bisazza Street Sliema SLM 1641

2131 9326

The Philippines

148/13 Tower Road Sliema SLM 1604

2347 0210

Ukraine

Monument Services Centre, National Road Blata l-Bajda HMR 9011

2124 2007

United States Embassy

Ta’ Qali National Park Attard, ATD 4000

2561 4000

Vietnam

81 Vinci Buildings, B Bontadini Street Birkirkara BKR 1732

2069 1053

Kazakhstan

Block D1 Flat 8, Housing Estate, Ta’ Xbiex

9947 1309

South Korea

Exchange Buildings, Republic Street Valletta VLT 1117

2229 6164

Latvia

1923 Valletta Road Marsa MRS 3000

2568 1205

Lebanon

Tower Business Centre Level 1, Tower Street Swatar BKR 4013

2549 6000

Lithuania

40 Alpine House, Naxxar Road San Gwann SGN 9032

2576 0000

Luxembourg

90 Palazzo Pietro Stiges, Strait Street Valletta VLT 1436

2123 1345

Organisations OFFICE

ADDRESS

TELEPHONE

Arabic Culture Information Society

3 Triq Felic Borg San Gwann SGN 2093

9923 8638

Friends of Australia Association

Dar l-Emigrant, Castille Place Valletta

2122 2644

Maltese Australian Chamber of Commerce and Culture

25 Forrest Court Mensija Street St Julians

2137 4027

China Cultural Centre

173 Melista Street Valletta VLT 1127

2122 5055

Malta China Friendship Society

62 Triq San Kristofru Valletta VLT 1465

German-Maltese Circle

Messina Palace, 141 Triq San Kristofru Valletta VLT 1465

2124 6967

http://www.germanmaltesecircle.org

Greek Catholic Community

132A Archbishop Street Valletta VLT 1444

2123 7872

http://greekcatholicmalta.com

World Islamic Call Society

Corradino Road, P.O. Box 3 Paola, PLA 9037

2169 7203

Russian Centre for Science and Culture

36 Merchants Street Valletta VLT 1173

2122 2030

http://www.acismalta.com

http://www.maltachinaonline.org

Association of International Women Emigrants’ Commission

WEBSITE

www.aiwmalta.com Dar l-Emigrant, Castille Place Valletta VLT 01

2122 2644

Inizjamed Malta

www.mecmalta.com/emmcomm.html www.inizjamed.org

John XXIII Peace Lab

Triq Hal-Far Zurrieq, ZRQ 2609

Maltese Arab Chambre of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture

22A Bergia ta Sant Anton, Vjal De Paule Balzan BZN 9022

2148 2750

Friends of America Malta

Dar L-Emigrant Misrah Kastilja

2122 2644

Happy Moments Kenya

1 Tal-Fanal, Triq il-Fanal L-Ghasri GSR 1207, GOZO

2156 3308

Stars and Stripes Malta

Kaxxa Postali 6, Ghajnsielem GSM 1051, GOZO

9943 3115

Koperattiva Malta Kuba

178 Triq il-Kbira San Guzepp Santa Venera HRM 1015

2122 4325

http://kmkcoop.com

Adoption Unit (Agenzia Appogg)

469 Triq San Guzepp Santa Venera SVR 1012

2278 8000

www.fsws.gov.mt/en/apppogg/Pages/welcome-appogg.aspx

The English-Speaking Union

93/3 Triq il-Wied tal-Imsida L-Imsida MSD 9024

2133 6658

http://esumalta.org

www.peacelab.org

http://www.happymomentskenya.org/en/


January 2014

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Diary Of Events

kellimni.com

Events to be held in February 2014

Living in Malta, you may have fear to speak up, talk about my problems but you will only live once. Take this opportunity and if there is something distressing you in life and you always thought that you can’t find support about , now is the chance, www.kellimni.com is the online support for you. The kellimni.com team is reachable through e-mail, chat and online forums. Our services allow service users to express their concerns and talk about the issues directly affecting them. Young people need to know that they are not alone, that someone outside of their immediate circles cares about them, that their life can be free from pain and fear. The services provide an opportunity for all young people to reach out for help and support through channels of communication that are easily accessible to them.

Volserv SOS Malta, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, run a service at Mater Dei Hospital where volunteers, recruited by VolServ, help in the daily running of the Hospital. Assisting patients and relatives whilst at the same time contributing to the local society is the best way to familiarize

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Answers to November Crossword Across: 1. Racerelations 8. Tickets 11. Intermarriage. 13. Angel 14. Real 16. Largescale 17. Idea 18. eat 21. Difference 23. Gear 25. Colonies 29. Saxon 30. Ogre 31. Tel 32. Or 34. Immigrant 37. On 38. Norman 39. Refugees 41. Integrate 42. Nature Down: Racialintegration 2. Culture 3. Rear 4. Afar 5. Immigration 6. Stress 7. Asylum 9. Character 10. Eagle 12. Multiracial 15. Earner 16. Lie 19. AD 20. Scapegoats 22. Freedom 24. Anglo 26. Liontamer 27. Identity 28. Viking 33. Roman 35. Mourn 36. Fret 40. Ecu

‘Young people can potentially get hurt easily, yet help is at hand even in cyberspace... At kellimni.com you can talk to us about anything…we are her to listen.’ These are the words of James Buhagiar from www.kellimni.com, an online service that provides free anonymous, confidential support to young people, who are invited to browse the website for friendly guidance and information, especially if they do not know who to turn to. Kellimni.com is a partnership project between Appoġġ, the Salesians, Aġenzija Żgħażagħ and SOS Malta. The aim of kellimni.com is to support the youth who is going through a difficult moment and has no one to turn to during this difficult moment. Our services are free, private and confidential and the user can choose to remain anonymous.

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yourself with the Maltese culture and language and thus integrate better. A team of over 150 volunteers includes a number of foreigners who work with patients to offer them a better overall experience whilst at the same time show part of the hospitality that Malta is renowned for. For more information visit www.sosmalta.org/volserv or call on 21244123. kun int li tagħmel id-differenza Volontarjat fl-isptar Mater Dei u fil-Komunità Ċemplu fuq Tel: 21 244123 jew żuru l-website www.sosmalta.org

1st – 10th February: Valletta International Piano Festival 2nd February: Lost Illusions – Live from the Bolshoi Theatre (DANCE) @ Eden Cinemas, St. Julians 4th February: Lecture by Dr Aaron Micallef – ‘Underwater Landscapes’ (Monthly lectures by DIN L-ART ĦELWA) @ Melita Street, Valletta 8th February: Verita’ – Piano and Soprano Concert @ Casino Maltese, Valletta 8th, 15th February: Met Opera > Rusalka – Dvorak @ St. James Cavalier, Valletta 9th February: Bil-Qadfa ta’ Kulħadd – Walk and Cycle for Charity @ Żejtun 10th February: St. Paul’s Shipwreck - a National Public Holiday and a Religious Feast - celebrated in the Parish Church of St. Paul Shipwrecked in Valletta and in the streets of Malta’s capital city 12th February: Don Giovanni Live from the Royal Opera House (MUSIC) @ Eden Cinemas, St. Julians 13th February: Public lecture by Fr Edgar Vella – ‘Relics and Reliquaries in the Diocese of Malta during the Baroque Period’ (Monthly lectures by DIN L-ART ĦELWA) @ Melita Street, Valletta 19th – 22nd February: Archaeocustics Conference – The Archaeology of Sound @ Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa 21st – 23rd February: The Voca People Performance@ Malta Fairs & Conventions Centre 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 28th February: Fiddler on the Roof @ Manoel Theatre, Valletta 23rd February: Vodafone Malta Marathon starting @ Mdina 23rd February: Alarme – Military re-enactment @ Vittoriosa (Birgu) Waterfront 28th February: Gypsy Mambo ‘Underground’ – Macedonian gypsy brass band @ Orpheum Theatre, Gżira 28th February: Start of Carnival

Events to be held in March 2014 1st – 4th March: Carnival activities around Malta and Gozo 1st, 8th March: Met Opera > Prince Igor – Borodin @ St. James Cavalier, Valletta 2nd, 9th, 23rd, 30th March: In Guardia Parade @ Vittoriosa (Birgu) Waterfront 13th March: Public lecture by David Cardona – ‘Archaeological research carried out in Roman sites in Malta’ (Monthly lectures by DIN L-ART

ĦELWA) @ Melita Street, Valletta 15th March: Malta International Judo Open @ Cottonera Sports Complex 15th, 22nd March: Met Opera > Werther – Massenet @ St. James Cavalier, Valletta 16th March: Alarme – Military re-enactment @ Vittoriosa (Birgu) Waterfront 19th March: Feast of St. Joseph – a Public Holiday and a Religious Feast – celebrated in the town of Rabat. 19th March: The Sleeping Beauty – Live from the Royal Opera House (DANCE) @ Eden Cinemas, St. Julians 21st March: Marsa Cricket Association Cricket Festival – Form 1 and 2 boys and girls 09:15 – 13:00 @ Marsa Sports Club 29th – 30th March: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in aid of Puttinu Cares @ Oratorju Don Bosco, Victoria (Gozo) 30th March: The Golden Age – Live from the Bolshoi Theatre (DANCE) @ Eden Cinemas, St. Julians 31st March: Freedom Day – a National Public Holiday

Events to be held in April 2014 4th – 5th April: Durufle’ Requiem by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and Schola Cantorum Jubilate @ Robert Sammut Hall, Floriana 5th, 12th April: Met Opera > La Boheme – Puccini @ St. James Cavalier, Valletta 6th, 27th April: In Guardia Parade @ Vittoriosa (Birgu) Waterfront 10th April: Public lecture by Professor Peter Vassallo – ‘The Grand Master presides over Strait Street’ (Monthly lectures by DIN L-ART ĦELWA) @ Melita Street, Valletta 13th April: Palm Sunday – Traditional religious festivity 13th – 20th April: Holy Week and Easter Celebrations – processions on Good Friday and Easter in various localities around Malta and Gozo 25th – 30th April: Malta International Fireworks Festival by the Ministry for Tourism and the Malta Tourism Authority 26th April: Met Opera > Cosi Fan Tutte – Mozard @ St. James Cavalier, Valletta 27th April: Gozo Half Marathon starting @ Xagħra 27th April: Start of the Malta International Music Festival and Competition 28th April: The Winter’s Tale – Live from the Royal Opera House (DANCE) @ Eden Cinemas, St. Julians


January 2014

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Simshar: Bringing Maltese Realities To The Big Screen Jasen Ogle ©Josef Bonnici

Inspired by real events, Simshar is the fictional tale of two intertwining stories; a fishing accident which claimed the lives of three men and a young boy, and a mission to save the lives of irregular migrants fleeing Africa by boat. Side By Side sat down with Simshar director Rebecca Cremona and Clare Agius who plays Sharin, a woman who suffered a tragic loss when her son and Father-in-Law died in a boating accident out at sea. “We have two parallel stories that have to do with change,” Rebecca said. “The increasingly challenged fishing community and the irregular migrant situation are both Maltese issues. The film is not about these issues, but about how they are felt in the personal, mundane life of it all.” The film is very local, but ultimately it is about a family whose survival is at stake, which is a theme that can be appreciated by an international audience. The film may be seen as somewhat controversial as the politically hot topic of irregular migration is one setting in the tragic tale, but both Rebecca and Clare are not afraid to speak their minds on the topic. “The issue of rescue at sea is not straight forward” Rebecca said. “And due to the extreme complexity of the issue we sometimes forget that we are dealing with human lives.” During a separate television production, Clare was able to witness a rescue operation from an AFM airplane. “It’s different when you see rescue operations compared to just hearing or reading about it,” Clare said. “It has such an impact on you, that you change your thinking.”

©Josef Bonnici

“Watch the film as if it’s any other film; not as a Maltese film or an issue film,” Rebecca said. “This is not a film to pass judgment on the migrant issue. The issue is a backdrop in the film that reflects the reality of contemporary Maltese life.” “The audience would have to be a rock not to feel something,” Clare added “I feel it will open hearts and minds.”

We sometimes forget that we are dealing with human lives Before filming a protest scene, Rebecca had to explain to one of the child-actors in the film why the extras were holding up signs that read ‘blacks out.’ “She is completely integrated; she speaks perfect Maltese, but she couldn’t understand this part of the film,” Rebecca explained. The migrant children we worked with on the film are completely integrated to the point that they don’t understand the migrant issue.” For those children, skin colour and land of origin is not important. Some of the cast members from Africa were able to lend their experience to the director and other cast members, because they lived the reality of being irregular migrants. “When you become familiar with the real people in tragedy, you are reminded that these are people not statistics,” Clare said. “There were very emotional moments, because some of the cast remembered the tragedies they went through,” Rebecca recalled.

The same could be said for the surviving family members who lost their loved ones in the fishing accident. “Sharin’s tragedy is a situation that many families have experienced; that of losing a child,” Clare said. “The role was difficult for me particularly because the woman I was playing is still alive, so I chose to keep the acting as natural as possible and hope to honour her and all mothers who can relate to this tragedy.” The diverse cast and crew was made up of people from Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, France, Germany, Denmark, Croatia, England, Italy, Tunisia, Mali, Togo, Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, America, and of course many from Malta. “The film wouldn’t have been as attractive to me if it was just Maltese without other nations represented,” Clare said. “From a technical standpoint, it wouldn’t be possible without the foreign companies involved,” Rebecca added.

Everyone respects each other There were no communication problems on the set because of the diversity of the crew. There was always someone there to translate for someone else when necessary. “I love working with anyone who has a passion for what they are doing,” Clare said. “When you are on set, no matter where you come from, everyone adapts to one-another. Everyone respects each other. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from.” She continued, “This work is the perfect way to cross barriers.”

©Josef Bonnici

The film is principally in Maltese with some scenes in English when characters of different nationalities are communicating, there are also moments with Ethiopian and Libyan dialects. Fishing jargon was translated with the aid of professional fishermen. Other languages were translated with the help of a translator and actors; however, there was some dialogue improvisation guided by Rebecca. Lofti Abdelli, a Tunisian actor who played Simon; the spouse of Sharin, was helped by the actual Simon to help his Maltese and turn of phrase. For those who do not understand Maltese, the film will be screened locally with accompanying English subtitles. There will also be a purely Maltese version for cultural purposes. “We need to be realistic about the audience, because we [the Maltese community] are so small, so the aim is to be accessible,” Rebecca explained. She continued, “The fact that we are a post colonial English speaking country helps, yet we are so mixed and so insular at the same time.”

This work is the perfect way to cross barriers The film was shot entirely in Malta, in twenty-one different localities and at the Mediterranean Film Studios. It was the first film to be edited at the PBS creativity hub. Sound mixing was done in Dublin, Ireland, and colour grading was done in the US. Opening in 2014, Simshar will be Malta’s first feature film aimed at a local and international audience.

©Josef Bonnici

©Josef Bonnici


January 2014

13

All Maltese Plants And Animals Are Immigrants! PROF. Patrick J. Schembri

By definition, islands are surrounded by the sea, which, to most animals and plants that do not fly or swim, is a formidable barrier to cross. So, how do plants and animals, including large species, reach islands in the first place? Specifically, how did the terrestrial plants and animals that are found in the Maltese islands get here, given that the islands are located 96 km south of Sicily and 290 km from North Africa? To answer this interesting question, one needs to ask an additional question: when did the Maltese Islands actually became islands? The Maltese Islands are made up of rock that even a cursory inspection will show to be full of fossils. Geologists date the oldest rock to be exposed at the surface of the islands (known technically as the Lower Coralline Limestone) to some 27 million years ago. The fossils in this rock type, and in the four layers © Prof. Patrick J. Schembri

The endemic Maltese Centaury, Palaeocyanus crassifolius, the National Plant of Malta. The ancestors of this species were amongst the first wave of immigrants that reached the Maltese Islands soon after their formation.

that subsequently formed above it, are of marine plants and animals and reveal these rocks to have been formed on the sea bed; in fact, all five main rock types that make up the Maltese Islands represent sediments that accumulated on the sea floor and which later, through chemical and physical processes, became consolidated into the different types of rock. It is only at the top of the youngest rock present (known as the Upper Coralline Limestone) that we start finding fossils of species which live in very shallow water or on the shore; geologists date these upper rock strata to some 7 million years ago, so in effect, the Maltese Islands have only been islands since that time.

Why should what was previously the sea floor rise to the surface and become land? There are two processes involved here. The first is what is known as tectonic movement, which in effect means that the rock of the sea floor is heaved upwards by processes acting within and below the crust of the earth; the second is sea level change – if the sea level drops, then the shallow sea floor will be exposed to the air. Both processes acted on the block of rock in the central Mediterranean where the Maltese Islands are located; however, some 6 million years ago a unique event happened – the Mediterranean dried up. The details of why this happened are beyond the scope of this article, but in simple terms, tectonic movements cut off the connection between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic in the region of what today is the Strait of Gibraltar, and the very warm climate that prevailed at the time caused most of the sea to evaporate, leaving much of the Mediterranean seabed as dry land. The central Mediterranean area where the Maltese Islands are located certainly became dry land, connecting North Africa to Europe by what is called a land-bridge. This land-bridge lasted for some half a million years, after which time new tectonic movements opened what is today the Strait of Gibraltar, refilling the Mediterranean from the Atlantic and establishing Sicily, the Maltese Islands and the other islands in the central Mediterranean area as the islands we know today. During the period that the land-bridge was in existence, plants and animals, even slow-moving and slow-dispersing species, had plenty of time to move or disperse from both North Africa and Europe to occupy the newly exposed land in the central Mediterranean. Obviously, when the Mediterranean refilled, only those that were living on the highest ground, now islands, survived. This is how the Maltese Islands got their first set of species. These first colonisers came mainly from Europe, presumably because of the shorter distance European species needed to travel to reach Malta. When they were cut off on the islands by the sea, some species eventually died out, some survived more or less unchanged, and began started to develop differently from their mainland ancestors, eventually becoming so different as to become new species altogether and unique to these islands – endemic species (see the article ‘Uniquely Maltese’ in the Side by Side November 2013 issue). This first wave of immigrants was followed by other waves of immigrants during that period of time that geologists call the Pleistocene (from about 2.5 million years ago to 11,700 years ago). During the Pleistocene, the northern hemisphere was gripped by what are popu© Prof. Patrick J. Schembri

Five different species of Maltese Door-snails, all of which are endemic to the Maltese Islands. The ancestor of the two species on the right reached the Maltese Islands from Sicily via the land bridge that formed when the Mediterranean practically dried up. The ancestor of the others crossed over from Sicily during the Pleistocene glaciations.

A recently introduced species into the Maltese Islands – the Red Palm Weevil – first noted in 2007 and accidentally imported with palm trees

larly called the ‘ice-ages’, which are climatic cycles of cold and warm periods. Ice never reached anywhere near the Mediterranean; however, during an ‘ice age’ a lot of water was trapped on land in the form of ice in northern latitudes, and sea level was low in the Mediterranean, whereas during the warm phase, this ice melted and sea levels rose. These sea level fluctuations had an important effect on the biota of the Maltese Islands: during sea level lows, more land was exposed and the islands became larger than they are today and often merged to form one landmass; additionally, as the sea receded, the channel between Malta and Sicily became narrower and may, on at least one occasion, have actually disappeared completely (during the maximum sea level regression, thought to have been of 120-130 meters), leaving Malta and Sicily joined by dry land (a land-bridge). Sea-level lows therefore facilitated the crossing of plants and animals from Sicily to Malta, since the stretch of water to be crossed was much narrower than it is now, or may have even been non-existent. During such sea-level lowstands, as they are called, successive waves of immigrant species colonised the Maltese Islands, the nature and number of which depended on how much the sea level fell and on how long the lowstand lasted. During sea level highs, the sea level rose again, isolating the islands once more (and may at times have actually been higher that at present, by about 6m). During such highstands, populations of species became completely cut off from their parent populations in Sicily, allowing some of these species to develop differently from their ancestors and to become new endemic species. During the Pleistocene, there were at least 11 major ‘ice ages’ (more properly called ‘glacials’) and a large number of minor ones. Especially significant because of the variety of immigrant species that colonised Malta during these events were the major glacials that occurred some 690,000 years ago, between 490,000 and 300,000 years ago, and between 17,000 and 22,000 years ago. Many of the first and subsequent immigrant species and their descendents were fascinating creatures; they are now extinct, but their remains are still found as fossils in numerous sites, the most important of which is the cave at Ghar Dalam in Birzebbuga, which is a tourist attraction. A visit to the Ghar Dalam museum will show that in those days the Maltese islands were home to dwarf hippopotami, dwarf elephants, giant tortoises, a giant flightless swan, giant dormice, a giant lizard, a dwarf deer and a host of others. Note that all these species came from Europe, not Africa, as during glacials sea level was never low enough to connect Malta and North Africa or to narrow the channel between the two significantly. After the end of the last great glaciation, some 11,000 years ago, the Maltese Islands entered a period of isolation until the next

event that brought a new influx of immigrants – the permanent colonisation of the islands by humans that occurred sometime between 7,500 and 7,000 years ago. These human colonists, who were pastoralists and farmers, brought a number of species to the islands with them, some deliberately, such as the crop plants they cultivated and the animals they husbanded, and some accidentally, such as vermin, pests and other species associating with the human population itself and with its domestic plants and animals. The Maltese Islands have been, with only relatively brief interruptions, colonised permanently since then, but by different peoples, and each wave of human immigrants brought with it new species. While many of the pre-human phase colonising species still remain, especially in groups that are small and unobtrusive, such as insects, spiders, terrestrial snails and such like, for some groups of plants and animals, most of the presently occurring species are in fact new immigrants that have reached the islands due to deliberate or accidental transport by humans. For example, excluding domestic species, of the 15 or so terrestrial mammals occurring presently in the Maltese Islands, only bats and one species of shrew were actually present on the island before human colonisation. © Prof. Patrick J. Schembri

© Prof. Patrick J. Schembri

Sheep are not native to the Maltese Islands but were brought here by the first humans who established a permanent settlement. The plant the sheep are grazing on (known as the Kaffir Fig) was also introduced by humans, although much more recently; it was originally introduced for ornamental purposes but it is now found in the wild in a number of places

The Maltese Islands are still receiving new immigrant species to the present day. Some species continue to be introduced deliberately or accidentally through human agency. One such case that has made the news is the Red Palm Weevil, a large beetle originally native of tropical Asia which has invaded Europe and Africa and which was introduced in Malta sometime in 2007, most likely imported with infected palm trees. However, there are many examples of similar occurrences. On the other hand, some immigrants reach the islands on their own steam through natural dispersal. For example, several species of grasshoppers and locusts swarm in North Africa and during such swarms, a few individual insects may be blown across the sea to the Maltese Islands if sufficiently strong winds are blowing in the right direction. Indeed, the Migratory Locust is a very rare locally occurring species, probably originating from such occasional dispersal events. Once the Maltese Islands became islands, they presented a new terrestrial environment that gradually became colonised by plants and animals that crossed over to the islands by various means at various times, a process that is still ongoing. In a sense, therefore, all species occurring on these islands are immigrants, including humans!


January 2014

14

We Are Happy Here

Jasen Ogle

Kevin and Rama Krishna took Side by Side on the journey that started 20 years ago when they left India for Malta. They told us their individual vision of how their lives played out in Malta. It was easier for Kevin than most to integrate in Malta. “We are all over the world,” he said, noting the peaceful nature of Indians. “We never clash with the locals. We never do anything to damage the name of our people. We do not want to complicate life.” Kevin appreciates the Maltese culture, because he believes Indians have a lot in common with the Maltese. “The Maltese focus on education for the sake of their children. We have the same attitude: we are family-oriented, divorce is not part of our culture, we teach our children good morals and values, and we adopt the local culture and learn the language.” When Kevin moved to Malta, he worked as a fuel injection technician for five years, but with a growing family, it was important to seek more income to sustain his family. His brother, who was experienced in catering and food services, suggested that they open their own restaurant. On November 29, 1993, Kevin and his brother opened Krishna - an Indian-themed restaurant in Sliema. This past November marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of Krishna. The restaurant has attracted many visitors over the years that keep coming back. “We have created a network of clients that keeps up during winter. We have seen three generations of families… we know them so well.” While he enjoys serving authentic Indian dishes to his patrons, sharing his culture is what is most important for Kevin. “We try to educate the Maltese about Indian food.” He does this through food and sport.

“Cricket is my family,” he said. Kevin is the chairman of the Marsa Cricket Association. He is an ambassador for the sport and for Maltese culture. “When we play foreign teams, we give a miniature luzzu (a Maltese fishing boat) to the visiting teams as a memento.” During the summer, the Marsa Cricket Club played matches against a team from New South Wales and against Cardiff University in the spring. Last year, Malta hosted a cricket tournament featuring international

visitors from Australia, Russia, The Czech Republic, and Hungary, Kevin takes care of hospitality and scheduling matches. He uses cricket to bring an international audience to Malta. The local leagues in Malta are made up of Maltese and expatriates who play together and against each other. Family and his community are important to Kevin. Together, the local Indian community celebrates Hindu feasts like Diwali. They prepare special sweets as offerings and wear brand new clothing. While it is celebrated in different ways in each of the Indian states, as well as around the world, Kevin said that “fireworks is a must” - another common characteristic with the Maltese. By invitation from the Indian Consulate, members of the Indian community in Malta meet to celebrate Holi, the Indian festival of colours. “We get together and throw colours at each other, and when we are done, the consulate cleans the colours off the pavement.” Kevin has some advice for foreigners who come to live in Malta. He understands that it is not easy to integrate and that it takes time, but the first place to start is where you work. “Get to know co-workers, invite them to your house, mingle after hours and talk about your experiences.” He said that you make friends through friends, so it is best to start with the people you see the most. Rama is originally from Chennai, India. She and her brother grew up in an upper middle-class family. She admits that she lived a sheltered life. “I was always escorted wherever I went. I did not have many responsibilities before getting married. I was fifteen the first time I stepped on a bus,” she told Side by Side. Rama was in her second year at university, studying English literature, when she met Kevin. Kevin and Rama’s marriage was arranged, which is not uncommon in India. They met only 10 days before their marriage.

“There was a system to prepare you for marriage. The family was in talks [about marriage] in September 1992. By December we were engaged and got married in March of 1993,” Rama said. Weighing the consequences of a love marriage and an arranged marriage, she concluded that she would be happier with an arranged marriage. “It was more beneficial to have the love and support of your family through an arranged marriage and to learn about your partner, than to have a love marriage and be without family.”

Nineteen days after their marriage, Kevin and Rama flew to Malta. “I was lucky that Kevin has a brother who lives here. He has a wife and kids, so it was good to have people to help show me the ropes.” It was difficult for Rama to integrate when she first came to Malta. “It takes time to be accepted in social circles,” but “I had a wonderful Maltese neighbour who brought me into Maltese society,” she recalled. The couple found great support in their neighbours, especially when Rama was pregnant with her first child. Rama became pregnant with Adam six months after her marriage. Five years later Eric came along. New friendships flourished when Kevin and Rama met the parents of Adam’s school friends. “There was no need for me to meet others, because I had no social ties until Adam started school.” In the meantime, Kevin and his brother had established their restaurant, so he was able to dedicate more time to his family. Rama decided to put her English literature degree to use by enrolling in a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course and becoming an English teacher for a few years. Kevin and Rama opened a stationary shop after some time, but realised that it took time away from family. Rama is family-oriented - taking her children to various activities and private lessons and spending Saturday afternoons watching the boys play cricket. “I’m very happy here, but island fever gets to me every now and then,” she said. When the fever sets in, she goes abroad with some of her girlfriends who leave their men behind and enjoy a quick getaway. Kevin and the boys also experience island fever from time to time, so they go abroad as a family, but in spite of that she said, “We are all happy here.”

On To You, Dear Readers We are happy to present to you the second issue of Side by Side. As a team, we have been challenging ourselves to provide the best possible content, including real life stories and events which we are excited to be sharing with you. As part of the project, two employees were recruited in order to ensure that the objective of the project is reached: Bartek as editor and Jasen as journalist. Having both a Maltese and a Third Country National (TCN) was a starting point at SOS Malta towards giving birth to Side by Side. Through this, SOS Malta has shown that different cultures can come together, not only to enhance and promote integration, but also that collaborating to produce a newspaper is a successful example of interculturalism. The objective of Side by Side is to promote understanding of positive aspects of interculturalism, cultural diversity and the richness that TCNs living in Malta can bring to the islands.

To date, there have been five TCN contributors to the newspaper: two in the first issue, and three in this issue and more to come in the next. The main theme of the newspaper will be ‘What does interculturalism and cultural diversity mean to you?’ The newspaper will provide means of an informative exchange between the Maltese population and different TCN populations promoting understanding, tolerance and integration. The electronic version is available through our Facebook page and the SOS Malta website which enables you to access the newspaper online. Following the third issue, the project will end with a roundtable workshop during diversity week in which contributors, TCNs and other stakeholders will come together to discuss cultural diversity in Malta. This activity will result in a recommendations report regarding how to move forward with cultural diversity newspapers as a tool for increased

integration. Thus, more information about the roundtable event and your participation will be available through our website, Facebook page and via e-mail if there are further questions. The project began with a scoping exercise, directed at TCNs and Maltese, to ask about what kind of content they would find of interest and what their ideas about cultural diversity are. Now, it’s your turn. We would like to encourage you, the reader to send in contributions, letters and comments to ensure a higher level of interactivity within the newspaper and online version. Kindly send your contributions to info@sosmalta.org. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank you for reading! Emma Zammit Project Leader, Side by Side


January 2014

15

Passion And Commitment In Maltese Boxing Jasen Ogle © Jasen Ogle 2014

I always liked boxing; it is in the Maltese mentality that men have to be tough guys “Compared to the UK, the quality of boxing in Malta is improving, because on average, there are more boxing matches in Malta,” he said. Haithem Laamous is arguably the most well known and most experienced boxer in Malta. The 24 year old half-Tunisian boxer has competed in 50 fights spread among 11 countries. He has taken younger boxers with him to compete in international tournaments. “Our blood is warrior blood,” he said. He hopes to represent Malta in the upcoming Common Wealth Games. The 20th Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow this year. In previous years, Malta’s representation in boxing has been dormant in this event, which the Malta Boxing Federation is trying to change. Gym owner and Secretary of the Maltese Boxing Federation Steve Abela would like to see Malta represented in boxing at global events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Games of the Small States of Europe. Last year the federation became affiliated with AIBA, which Mr. Abela says is a key stepping stone for Malta’s boxing presence to be seen in international games. “The Maltese excel more at 1 on 1 sports: boxing, swimming, and shooting; than team sports,” Mr. Abela said. Most people involved in the business would agree that although boxing is steadily increasing in popularity in Malta, funding is the biggest setback. There is a need for sponsorship not only for boxers and events, but funding to train and employ more judges and referees. There are professional courses available abroad for training, but lack of money and man-power is restricting boxing in Malta.

Boxing is gaining more attention in Malta as local fighters and boxing organizations are being recognised by the likes of the World Boxing Union (WBU), the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA), the World Boxing Council (WBC), and the World Boxing Federation (WBF). Attendance at local bouts are increasing with the help of boxers, gym owners and promoters. Local promoter Demis Tonna has seen attendance increase at his events over the last year. His first event sat an audience of 500 spectators and his most recent promotion filled to capacity with 1,000 viewers. He had to turn away another 300 at the door to comply with safety regulations. Both Demis and his 17 year old son Doulton do double duty as promoters and boxers; although, Demis mostly competes as a means to stay active and healthy. As a match maker, Demis makes sure that fighters are not over or under-matched. He requires that all boxers fighting under his promotions are fit to fight and drug tested before stepping in the ring. “I do the paper work, I make sure they get checked before each fight, even down to checking and signing off on gloves before boxers enter the ring,” Demis said. He sometimes steps in the ring and spars with local fighters to gauge fighting ability, matching their strengths and weaknesses against those of others to help him choose fighters who will put on a good show. “Promoting is an art on its own,” Demis said. “Eighteen years ago, boxing in Malta was dead, but is growing very fast,” said Malta Boxing Commission Chairman, Charlie Cardona. Not only does he chair the Malta Boxing Commission, but he is a referee and a judge for semi-professional and professional bouts. Charlie and Demis agree that drugs are not welcome in boxing. Charlie takes it a step further by abstaining from alcohol during and

several days ahead of a fight. “I do not touch alcohol to make sure I am clear headed to judge a fight.” He continued, “I am scared of drugs; especially in boxing, because although a boxer might not feel anything during a fight, the consequences after substances wear off can be horrible.” Most boxers in Malta are semi-professional. They earn money through selling tickets to their fights.

Eighteen years ago, boxing in Malta was dead, but is growing very fast Garth “The Problem” Galea is a semi-professional boxer from Balzan who has been training for 3 years. Like most boxers he started in kickboxing to keep fit and active and transitioned to boxing. “I always liked boxing; it is in the Maltese mentality that men have to be tough guys,” He said. It’s difficult for boxers to make the shift from semi-professional to professional. “I will try to go pro, but you have to leave your job in order to do that,” Galea said. Most boxers work during the day to earn a living and train before and after work. “I do training camp for 8 weeks before a fight, but I also have to work. It’s difficult to work and be on a good level in boxing,” said Etienne “il-Buddy” Spiteri, who has been fighting semi-professionally for 4 years. There are not a lot of opportunities for sponsorships for boxers to go professional, but they are necessary for Maltese boxers to be able to train and compete with more experienced international boxers. A carpenter by trade, Richard “The Viper” Vella can attest to the growing popularity of boxing and the need for more spectators in Malta. “People recognise me from fights and stop me in the streets,” he continued, “you cannot be shy or too cocky. You have to be

humble to fans, even if they do not like you.” One Maltese boxer who earns a living as both as a licensed professional boxer and licensed professional trainer is “Super” Steve Martin. When he is not training three times a day, he is teaching other boxers at his gym in Marsa. He gives his fighters exercise and diet plans. He also leads them in sparring and training sessions. Martin is currently the World Boxing Union International Champion. He has fought against boxers of various nationalities both in Malta and abroad, but usually leaves Malta to spar. “I spar with boxers in the United Kingdom to maintain a professional fitness level,” Martin said. He is one of few local fighters to receive sponsorship to earn a living, so he can concentrate solely on training. Zak Farrugia, 20 of Bugibba has been boxing since the age of 14, but only fights abroad. He is the Amateur Boxing Association of England Class B National Champion. He trains locally, but his career hopes rest in the UK where he hopes to turn professional. He is optimistic about boxing in Malta.

You have to be humble to fans, even if they do not like you The ‘Catch-22’ difficulty for Malta is that boxers need more fights to gain experience and exposure, but too many fights saturate the market. There is at least one boxing even occurring every month from January to March of this year. It is financially difficult for boxing enthusiasts to attend events every month, which in turn poses a problem for event promoters and boxers to earn money. Gym owners and boxing devotees who invest their time in the sport lose time away from work when they go abroad to participate in tournaments and conferences, but they make these sacrifices to further develop the current young crop of boxers in Malta. “We need people to take interest in judging and refereeing. We could also use help in marketing and public relations to further promote boxing locally,” Mr. Abela said.

© Jasen Ogle 2014


January 2014

16

“My Name Is Karmenu, And I’m From Malta.” Karmenu Duca

“Mal-what?” What’s that?! That is the type of question I usually get when I mention my country. “Please! At least ‘where’ and not ‘what,’” I used to retort; but not anymore. I used to get more annoyed. After eight years living in Los Angeles, I got used to it. Also, I’m more comfortable and less neurotic about my thick Maltese accent (nowadays I find it rather exotic—it is not Italian, not Middle Eastern, not Armenian and I get a kick when Lolo tries to imitate it). After all, who doesn’t have an accent in LA—the melting pot of cultures? Yes, my name is Karmenu and I was born and raised in Malta. But whereas in Perú I was considered the gringo (any white person is called gringo) who’s loaded with money, here in LA I am considered as another alien in search of a better future. Little do people know that my income in Perú (between 1995-1998) and my income in LA since 2005 has not changed, not even one sol or one dollar. It is still at zero dollars an hour. Very few people in LA know or understand who I am and what I do, especially in a city where everybody from the hood calls each other bro. Ok, let’s take it from the top. I was born in 1965 in Malta and lived in Qormi till I was twenty-four years old. In 1990, after graduating from the University of Malta, I joined the Missionaries of Charity Brothers (MC), a Catholic religious group founded by Mother

Teresa in Calcutta in 1963. Oooops! I was almost going to forget that while still on the island, I was an active member of the Third World Group. (I still love that group dearly!) Since then, I have lived in Paris, the city of lights; Manchester, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution; Noto, the masterpiece city of Sicilian baroque; Perú, the land of the Incas; Colombia, the once drugcapital of the world; Guatemala, the land of so many active volcanoes (literal and metaphoric); Calcutta, the city of Kali Ma and Ma Teresa; and finally LA, the Bollywood of the West! (In my missionary work, I also got to visit Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Haiti, Bangladesh, El Salvador and Manila. Hmmm, remind me, how does the refrain go? Join the MCs to see the world?). I enjoy the familiarity and gossip of living in small towns and at the same time I thrive in the anonymity of a large city, as long as I have a small community of Brothers and friends around (I tend to get lost too quickly!) I love large cities; not just for the sake of being anonymous, but more for the feeling of being a part of, at one with, without sticking out from the crowd, because I am a Missionaries of Charity Brother of the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Ora pro nobis.

I am currently one of the Catholic chaplains who serve in the largest jail in the world So what distinguishes me from others? Apart from the small crucifix which we MCs pin on the left side of our shirts, I am (as far as I know) the first Maltese to set foot in Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Yes, that’s big news! No, I did not make it onto America’s Most Wanted and, no, I am not writing this article sitting down on a metal stool stuck to the concrete floor in a six-by-eight foot cell. I am currently one of the Catholic chaplains who serve in the largest jail in the world and the busiest in all of the United States.

Colours give life. Colours Bring Joy. Colors Announce Spring In the Los Angeles County Jail there are no bright colors. The benches, the walls, the doors, are all painted in drab colors—gray, green, and black. Colors are used only to distinguish one inmate from another, thus indicating how one is to behave: the ones in dark blue uniforms are the inmates called general population, the ones in light blue are the gays or homosexuals and transsexuals; there’s light green for the trustees, those who work inside the jail, that is, those who can be trusted to do a task; orange for the maximum security ones, brown for those in the jail hospital and yellow for those who work outside, cleaning the streets that surround the jail. Colors give life. Colors bring joy. Colors announce spring. In jail there is no joy. In jail there is no spring. Seasons never change. In fact, there is not even a window to let in God’s light. Time is measured in terms of when: When the trustees distribute breakfast, lunch, and supper. When the deputies do the two daily head counts. When the inmates appear in court. Colors give meaning to life. Red tells us STOP! It means blood, danger. Green gives us permission to cross the road, and is also the symbol of hope. A white flag means surrender. Black is the color of death and mourning, blue is associated with the sea and the sky. Colors give life; they give meaning. And this is precisely the sickness that grips those “bodies” (as the guards call the inmates in the Los Angeles jail). A life without meaning!

Jovanni, a young 20-year-old who is already serving a life sentence and has a two-year-old son, can practically neither read nor write. The only thing which, he says, he can do well is play with Nintendo. He has never been to school; neither has he ever worked in his short life. A wasted life. In such circumstances, the role of the chaplain is crucial— the chaplain brings hope in hopeless situations, love to those who have been rejected by society, and friendship to those who have lost the possibility of having any. As a chaplain, my service to the men inside is very varied. The most obvious services are: administering the Eucharist; preparing for the sacraments; listening and counseling inmates; visiting those who are stuck for twenty-four hours a day in their cells; giving death notifications (the hardest of all! Very hard to tell a man that his mother died while he was incarcerated); helping sheriff deputies during cell extractions when an inmate deliberately (and sometimes viciously) decides he is not going to leave his cell for whatever reason (so before the deputies use force or pepper spray they call a chaplain who tries to convince the inmate to leave the cell peacefully, never had any success there!); and . . . a not-so-obvious chaplain’sjob of sitting for hours inside the office while inmates line up to cut their toe nails and/or finger nails (and believe me, after two or three months without touching nail clippers those men are so grateful that we chaplains are ready to offer that unofficial service). Every other month or so, I try to visit other inmates whom I have met in the past, and who are now doing time in prison (generally speaking, jail is for those awaiting their sentence or their trial, whereas prison is for those who have been already sentenced to more than 364 days). I give preference to those who are doing life sentences, those who are on Death Row and especially to those whose families are either nonexistent or too poor to travel long distances to visit their loved ones. Visiting a Death Row inmate; one awaiting execution, is a singular experience because whilst for “normal” prisoners you are sitting around a small table in a big hall amidst other inmates and their families and friends, for a prisoner on Death Row, you are literally locked together with him in a four by six-foot cage. In a relatively big hall, there are about twenty such cages.

Deathrow inmates have a special place in my heart Death Row inmates have a special place in my heart, not because they are awaiting their execution, but because of the shame many of them have brought unfairly on their families and loved ones, the unnecessary and useless pain they have brought to the victims’ families, and the guilt they have to carry for life, up until the day the State decides it is time to kill the “monster.” Dear Reader, if you have read up till here, you might be convinced that I’m a bit crazy to be or rather to look forward to be, in such dire, pain-full and dark places. I guess I am! If twenty-three years ago, you had told me that I would be writing this article inside Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, while waiting for Lolo and a group of fifteen inmates to come in for their art class, which I also give twice a week, I would have considered you crazy. But today if you ask me, “How can you do it?” I’d readily answer, “How can I not do it?” Karmenu Duca is the author of Ten Years in Prison, a diary of his time as a chaplain in Colombia’s, Guatemala’s and LA’s jails and prisons.

General Programme Solidarity & Management of Migration Flows 2007-2013 European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (IF) Project part-financed by the European Union Co-financing rate: 75% EU Funds: 25% Beneficiary’s Funds Sustainable Management of Migration Flows

Side by side january 2014  

Side by side january 2014

Side by side january 2014  

Side by side january 2014

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