Migrants in a dinghy off the coast of Lampedusa, 17 April 2016
(Patrick Bar/SOS Mediterranee via AP)

By Filippo Sciacca

Once renowned mainly as an idyllic tourist attraction with beautiful beaches, the Italian island of Lampedusa is now widely known as a European entry point for desperate migrants and refugees escaping from nearby Africa — many of whom meet a gruesome death on the way.

Lampedusa and the Pelagie Islands (Wikimedia Commons, NormanEinstein)

But Italy’s southern-most island is organizing an event later this year that it hopes will shift attention at least briefly from tragic headlines to the Mediterranean Sea’s historical role as a crossroads of civilization and cultural exchange.

Closer to Tunisia than to Sicily, Lampedusa has in recent years become a preferred destination for thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing conflict and human rights abuses in Africa and the Middle East.

The route across the Mediterranean from Libya to Lampedusa has re-emerged as a main pathway for immigrants to Europe now that the numbers of refugees passing through Turkey to Greece has slowed down.

Barely a day goes by without news of rescuers intercepting overcrowded vessels or plucking hapless immigrants from the sea — sometimes alive but all too often drowned.

Lampedusa is keen to shift the narrative.

The beating of drums will begin at sunset on Lampedusa.

Last year the island’s mayor, Giusy Nicolini, inaugurated the opening of the “Museum of Trust and Dialogue for the Mediterranean,” in a bid to spread tolerance and dialogue through culture.

Now the island is organizing a concert that will start with the beating of drums in Lampedusa and which, it hopes, will then echo around the Mediterranean in a message of hope and interdependence.

Set for September 23, “Peace Drums” will involve musicians, visual artists, writers and directors, and offer an opportunity to celebrate the courage and sacrifice that the small, isolated island has come to symbolize.

The beating of drums will begin at sunset on Lampedusa, followed by other concerts amplifying the island’s call along the coasts of the Mediterranean and from vessels on the sea. Any type of music is encouraged.

The event will be streamed live on the internet and via social media, and will be accompanied by a series of filmed shots of different parts of Lampedusa.

“Peace Drums” celebrates different heartbeats: the heartbeat of those who leave their homeland to travel towards the unknown, braving the Mediterranean’s waves. The heartbeat of mothers who watch their children depart, and the heartbeat of women on Lampedusa and elsewhere in Europe who welcome newcomers as if they were their own children.

“Peace Drums” is part of a larger effort to ensure the Mediterranean promotes cultural exchange and represents peace and dialogue between different peoples.

The unique event aims to generate a wave of peaceful energy that will spread from Lampedusa to the rest of the world, sending a message of peace and international solidarity.

(Edited by Tania Bagan)

Filippo Sciacca is an Italian marketing specialist and founder of Comart, an agency that specializes in supporting sustainable social enterprises. Born in Sicily and educated in Italy and Northern Ireland, he is helping to promote the “Peace Drums” initiative.


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