The similarities are more than the differences

Elena Hajilari & Nikos Fournaris

Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, Belarus, Greece, Somalia. So many different cultures, ideas, customs, views “met” for first time on Saturday 28 January at Impact Hub for the Inclumedia Lab. However, one gets to wonder whether the similarities were -and still are- more than the differences. The aim of this 3-month training course is to get together immigrants and refugees with Greek journalism students, in order to jointly produce original articles with the aim of giving a new perspective on issues -usually- dealt with by the media in a unidimensional way.

The first encouraging words were uttered almost at once: “We should stretch out a hand to our neighbor, get rid of social stereotypes and the fear there is between us”. Nadir, a refugee from Afghanistan, draws our attention to what is maybe the most essential element in interpersonal relations. However, the essential, the really important element of an issue that should be analyzed and dealt with in a critical way, with no “fuss” and “absolute truth” claims, is often the most difficult to trace.

When it comes to such a standardized issue in the media and our everyday lives, constant target of opinions, data, stereotypes and “labels” by both specialists and laymen, it gets difficult to focus on the simple meeting of two people, with no filters or prejudice, even unconscious ones. But if one “succumbs” to the great number of excuses offered, the conversation can become less uncomfortable and scary than originally imagined; on the contrary, it can actually help one “understand” people one once rejected due to fear, lack of time, unjustly fixed mentalities.

What came out of our conversation was that, while refugees often have to do many different jobs at the same time so they can survive, they don’t give up on life and maintain a constant yearning for learning, thus gaining new experiences and obtaining new skills. People in more “emergency” situations than the locals, who often don’t even have the basic material goods, prove to have the clarity of mind to seek not only survival, but real improvement of their living conditions at all levels.

Not all refugees and immigrants are ready to cope decently with the difficulties of the new circumstances, just like not all permanent residents have the ability to realise what the abrupt change of everything you had taken for granted means. However, in both cases, it is not the origin, color, or religion what determines human value. The least one can do on both sides is to give understanding a chance.

The Inclumedia workshop, in which we take part, is an ideal opportunity for bridging the gap between the elements that -seem to- seperate us, since it is our differences the ones that produce the excuse for getting to know each other. Such initiatives are a good step towards real integration and the elimination of media stereotypes. Of course, something like that shouldn’t be an isolated and shocking event, and marginalisation is certainly not helping society move towards a new direction.

Following Nadir’s example, as well as the one of so many other immigrants, and the way he deals with everyday life, society could get the motivation to evolve, to critically confront standardised and fixed points of view, accept people just as what they are: people.

We would like to thank Ms. Olivia Kyriakidou, Professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business, with areas of interest Human Resource Management, Management, Organisational Psychology and Social Entrepreneurship, for her unconditional help in the first meeting of the participants.

Written by Elena Hajilari & Nikos Fournaris  |  Translated by Eirini Chatzikoumi

photo credits: Solomon

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