Syrian youth sings for peace
“Together we shall stand, in harmony hand-in-hand. The sweet words we say build bridges of compassion. Hope cannot be lost due to hatred and feuds.”
At the end of August, close to 230 young men and women from across Syria took to the stage at the Damascus opera house to sing powerful songs of peace, hope and unity. Positioned side-by-side, each voice contributing to the ensemble, the members of the Tanaghom choir hit the high note of a musical journey whose impact extends beyond lyrics and onto life itself. With their heads held high, they sang songs of peace and harmony that pierced the hearts of the audience who couldn’t help but tear up.
Representing Syria´s rich medley of regions, religions, and ethnicities, the singers were first brought together eight months ago with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Leaving aside their differences, and harnessing the strength of their diversity, the members of the choir learned how to listen to each other, celebrate each other’s voices, and sing in unison. From workshop to practice sessions, rehearsal to final concert, the singers soon realised how these skills could also be applied in their everyday lives. They blossomed as messengers of peace and agents of positive change within their communities and among their peers.
“Music is an important form of art that stimulates thought and helps heal the trauma that young men and women have been exposed to during the Syrian crisis,” said Ramla Khalidi, UNDP Resident Representative in Syria. “It helps rebuild bridges between different communities. These young men and women will hopefully lead the path to peace and social cohesion in their communities,” she added.
More than ten years of conflict in Syria has had a profound effect on the relationships between everyday Syrians. With 6.7 million people internally displaced, entire communities uprooted and displaced into an already-struggling host communities, the country´s social fabric has been severely undermined. Young people — who comprise 21 per cent of the total population — are often particularly affected by these community fractures. It is reported that 47 per cent of young people in Syria have had a member of their immediate family or close friend die. Long-standing and deep-rooted trauma, much of which remains unaddressed, means a mental health crisis looms large and youth are particularly under further risk of developing negative coping mechanisms.
“I have tattooed Tanaghom’s logo on my wrist, right over my scars, so that next time I’m feeling down and desperate, it will remind me of the warmth I felt among my peers and that good things still happen.” said Azhar, 20 year old from Dara’a.
“The project had a great impact on the participants. They wrote and composed songs that expressed their longing for love and peace, for communication and closeness. There’s a real need among youth to have a safe space for dialogue, discussion and exchange of ideas.” said Ghada Harb, conductor of the choir. “One of the participants from Aleppo accidently broke his phone, the entire group volunteered to donate and collect money to help him replace his phone” she added.
“Don’t judge me by my religion or where I’m from. Just like you, I’m a human being, I have faith in humanity. Let’s sing for peace, for love, for the future” goes a song written by Marah, Yazan and Ali, three members of the choir heralding from Tartous and Latakia governorates:
The concert brought together the families and friends of the participants along with around 1000 people from across the country. It concluded with snippets from traditional songs from different governorates across Syria, weaved together into a beautiful mosaic:
UNDP works to build bridges among communities of diverging political, religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, as well as among host and internally displaced communities by recognizing their common humanity and promoting positive attitudes and behaviours. The group of singers look forward to the day when they can meet again and sing their hearts out for peace and harmony.
Watch the full concert on our YouTube channel here.