The Words of the Ledesma Family
Sydney Australia - In celebration of the International Year of Rapprochement of Cultures, about 70 people, young and old and from various cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, gathered at the Oceania Peace Embassy on June 7. The occasion: an Iraqi Cultural Evening sponsored by the Ambassadors for Peace of the Universal Peace Federation.
A good number of local Ambassadors for Peace are immigrants or refugees from Iraq. They had been coming to monthly events and participated, but something in them yearned for something more. A few of them suggested that we hold an evening that highlighted the culture and history of a country that is often in the news but that few people know very little about.
Our UPF staff felt this was an important moment for all of us. There was a sense that they wanted to build deeper relationships, share their hearts, and learn to know ours better. This seemed very aligned with our own fundamental principles and the UN theme for this year of Rapprochement of Cultures. In a planning meeting, they suggested a more cultural, historical and musical approach.
Hummus, Lebanese bread strips, and baba ghanoush decorated the tables as the guests made their way to their seats. Special guests included Consul General Mr. Muhsin Al-Samaraee and Dr. Mohamed Al Jabiri, a well respected lawyer and Ambassador for Peace, as well as community leaders. As four Iraqi musicians took their places on the stage, a hush descended upon the crowd. Clad in smart, black outfits, the four men began to play. The delicate and rich sounds of the Oud, Santur, and Joza resonated through the room, emboldening individuals to clap hands, tap feet, and even move across the room and belly dance. The atmosphere only heightened with every traditional Iraqi song that was played, so much so that by the end of the musical numbers, a large portion of the room had stood up and tested their dancing skills.
Next, the Assyrian dancers displayed their nimble foot skills with a traditional Assyrian dance. Adorned with beads, baubles, feathers, tassels and even a scimitar, the four boys and girls whirled around the stage, managing to keep their balance with every difficult move. Encouraged to join them for a final dance, the audience gravitated towards the stage and joined hands for a final circular dance.
The entertainment was followed by an educational video on Iraqi history and culture. Mr. Alfred Mansour gave a heart-warming and stimulating presentation that highlighted the long and astounding history of Iraq tracing its distant origins as the "cradle of civilization." After the film had finished, five Ambassadors for Peace awards were given to members of the Iraqi community in Sydney. The evening was a fine example of cultural sharing and deepened bonds of friendships among people of all different backgrounds.