Situated just 70 nautical miles off the Tunisian coast in Africa is the Italian island of Lampedusa — a picture-perfect Mediterranean paradise with white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters. This tiny island is home to approximately 6,000 people. Its name is derived from the ancient Greek word “lépas” which means rock, due the rocky landscape of the island. On the southernmost tip of the island is a ceramic sculpture of an open door overlooking the sea. The sculpture is called La Porta d’Europa — the door of Europe.

At least 15,000 people have died in the process, making the path from Libya to Italy the deadliest migrant route.

For hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and political unrest, particularly in the Arab world, this door symbolizes a warm welcome and an opening to a better life. But the door is a symbol of both beauty and horror. Lampedusa and its residents have witnessed first-hand the tragic plight of Europe’s migrant-crisis. Over the past 20 years, an estimated 400,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean sea to arrive on Lampedusa. At least 15,000 people have died in the process, making the path from Libya to Italy the deadliest migrant route.

A lack of refugee support from the Italian government, combined with underfunded EU missions to help curb the number of deaths at sea, have forced Lampedusians to take it upon themselves to offer food, shelter and hospitality to the migrants — an act that ultimately earned the island a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.

Lampedusians to take it upon themselves to offer food, shelter and hospitality to the migrants — an act that ultimately earned the island a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.

But rather than patting themselves on the back as heroes, Lampedusians exemplify a need for the Italian government, the EU, and the rest of the world to figure out a sustainable and effective way to accommodate the 65 million displaced persons worldwide and put an end to so many senseless deaths.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, a North American music festival was inspired by the situation in Lampedusa. Taking place this fall for the second consecutive year, Lampedusa: Concerts for Refugees, is a series of acoustic performances in eight U.S. cities raising awareness and funds to support educational opportunities for displaced persons. The festival is organized by the Jesuit Refugee Service in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Refugee Agency.

“…[W]e hope people are inspired by the music and compelled to get involved.”

Last year, the festival drew headliners that included Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant and Ron Sexsmith. Emmylou Harris will be performing again this year in Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA. Joan Baez and Steve Earle will also perform again alongside notable Grammy-winning artists including Brandi Carlile, Lila Downs, Patty Griffin, Dave Matthews, James McMurtry, Buddy Miller, Alynda Segarra, The Mastersons, Lucinda Williams, and special guests. The tour will start on Oct. 3 in Seattle, WA and carry on through Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque and El Paso before wrapping up in Dallas on Oct. 15.

Lampedusa Music Festival

The funds raised support the JRS Global Education Initiative whose goal is to expand and strengthen educational programs for refugees. Currently, the initiative has provided educational services to over 141,000 people in 38 countries. Their goal is commit to raising $35 million and to double the number of people receiving educational support by the year 2020.

“Education is a life-saving intervention for refugees,” said David Robinson, Executive Director of JRS/USA. “With Lampedusa, we hope people are inspired by the music and compelled to get involved.”

Tickets are selling fast and many shows are already sold out. For more information about the festival and to purchase tickets visit ConcertsForRefugees.org.

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