The city of Tarragona gathered, from December 16th to 19th, representatives from 108 associations from 12 Euromediterranean countries, framed in the Cross-Network Activities 2015 of the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) and coordinated by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed). Throughout three days, the Rovira i Virgili University, schools, civic centers, streets and plazas of the city transformed into spaces to experiment non-formal education strategies, foster trust and mutual understanding and expose best practices along intercultural dialogue.
Besides acknowledging that “there is still much to be done in terms of intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean region”, the ALF Executive Director Hatem Atallah was optimistic during the opening ceremony: “Being here today, all together, makes us stronger as countries part of one same Mediterranean”. Furthermore, the President of the IEMed, Senén Florensa, gave a warming welcome to all the participants to Tarragona, an “authentically Mediterranean” city, which has been a symbol of cultural exchange during the more than two millenniums that make up its history.
The goal of the first working day, getting to know each other, was more than accomplished given the expectation and interest generated by many of the best practice presentations, amongst which were initiatives such as: antiracist poetry workshops, football teams driven by Muslim girls, artistic creations based on recycling techniques, among others. Many of these initiatives shared a challenge: youth empowerment. In this sense, Mohamed Fahmi, coordinator of the ALF Moroccan Network, provided his point of view: “Youth isn’t an age, it’s a situation”.
As a matter of fact, children and adolescents from Tarragonian neighborhoods were given the chance to experience non-formal educational strategies like Forum Theatre, a tool used to transform - within the boundaries of fiction - realities they believe are unfair, for example racism. Other groups of young boys and girls worked on diversity and the fight against prejudices and stereotypes through mutual understanding and role-plays. Some of the participating organizations also went to primary schools and let them enjoy story tales from the Southern Mediterranean and a songwriting workshop, along with many other activities.
Interaction and game guided the second working day, where the participants had the opportunity to experience the transformative energy of non-formal education in the field of intercultural dialogue. In this sense, they could put into practice pedagogical tools to promote exchange and appreciate difference. Among these were drawing workshops, theatre of the oppressed and musical composition.
The encounter’s culmination took place on Saturday the 19th at the Plaça de la Font of Tarragona, where both kids and their families painted a giant map of the Mediterranean, danced to different rhythms through body percussion, tasted and learned the riches of the Mediterranean diet, and many other activities open to the local public.
Both in the opening ceremony and throughout the sessions and workshops, freedom of movement in the Mediterranean was claimed. Especially because despite being invited by the IEMed, four representatives from the Palestinian Network, with their organizations’ headquarters in Gaza, were forbidden to leave their country, alleging security reasons. “We try not to talk politics, but all our daily life is politics”, lamented Mousa Rahimi, member of the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, during the opening ceremony.
Another claim that was drawn by the countries from the South and East of the Mediterranean was the need to recognize Arabic as a valid language for intercultural dialogue in the region.
In any case, the encounter also has served to strengthen a network of entities and people that fight day after day for social transformation through intercultural dialogue. Moreover, children and adolescents from the city of Tarragona had the chance to open their eyes to a wider world and enjoy non-formal education experiences.