Media's crucial role towards cultural integration and diversity

SOS Malta launches project to mainstream the integration and diversity of third-country nationals through the media, first highlighting intercultural gastronomy.

From left to right: Asmaa Saleh; Maria Muscat; Claudia Taylor-East; Joe Vella; Laiq Ahmed Atif
From left to right: Asmaa Saleh; Maria Muscat; Claudia Taylor-East; Joe Vella; Laiq Ahmed Atif

Director of SOS Malta Claudia Taylor-East said that the main aims of the Media InterAct project being organisation in collaboration with the Public Broadcasting Services was to see how media can engage with third-country nationals on a culinary front.

"PBS will be producing and showing 13 programmes on television to bring food and cultures into Maltese homes. It has been an interesting process to date. We have also collaborated with Malta Journalism Awards to award journalists with writing on the same topic," Taylor-East said.

One of the main difficulties being experienced by SOS Malta in their research is that it is very difficult to reach journalists and nationals from third-countries due to several barriers but they appear to be enjoying the challenge.

PBS journalist Maria Muscat is producing and directing the 13-episode lifestyle-culinary television programme called "Minn Lenti Interkulturali" of which two episodes have already been recorded.

"I believe that planet Earth along with each and every country should belong to all human beings. Passports should be international. As human beings we should be united through soul, blood and hearts," Muscat said.

Muscat said that during filming several aspects emerged exposing the difficulties to interact in a different country due to different attitudes to humanity and integration into society.

"Such a project will help us learn different values and cultures," Muscat said.

Joe Vella, the IJA secretary general, said that in light of the project, a new category will be included on the list of journalism awards as "a one-off for a just cause".

Asmaa Saleh from Egypt is one of the participants and protagonists in the culinary television programme and said that after just one year in Malta, she feels integrated in Maltese society.

"Living here has completely changed my life and it has been very challenging because I left my own home, car, family and job to be here with my husband who is a Maltese citizen," Saleh said.

Saleh went on to say that she felt very welcomed in Malta and the people were "lovely, understanding and helpful".

"One of the best things is that they can speak English!" Saleh said.

The Egyptian national said that working with Muscat on the programme was quite the experience and dreams to open an Egyptian restaurant in Malta to share her culinary love and traditional sweets.

President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in Malta Laiq Ahmed Atif is a Pakistani national participating in the project and said that migration was a phenomenon for all creatures and compared humans to birds in their migratory process.

"Just like birds, humans sometimes leave their home countries to find better and safer environments. It can be for various reasons ranging from employment to saving their lives from persecution," Atif said.

Atif believed that integration was essential for the betterment of countries but it was a two-way process which needed to be respected by both the migrants as well as the host-country.

"Both parties need to respect the dignity of each other and the fundamental human rights. We should accept and respect all races. Migrants must respect and be thankful for the culture, customs and laws of their host-country as a right which when honoured will create harmony," Atif said.

The Pakistani said that while he was not saying that migration should happen, but that when it does happen, both the host-country and the migrants should look for the positive contributions which can be made to benefit the country.

Atif added that the media can play a crucial role where integration is involved because "everyone has something good to offer" and these can be highlighted by the media.

"We can all learn from each other and share our customs. Like, in Pakistan, we have one custom where men on a bus will always offer and give up their seats to women if there are no seats available," Atif said.

Taylor-East said that this was an invitation to the media to partner with SOS Malta in order to discover more ways to create multi-cultural partnerships through the project which is financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals.

"How are we going to create partnerships with third-country cultures? The project is one step where we can bring wonderful cultures and diversity into our homes while enjoying a culinary experience different to our own," Taylor-East said. 

 

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