In trying to find ways to bring people together, perhaps the simplest solutions are the most effective. William Shakespeare said that music was the food of love, and that recognized the Jesuit Refugee Service and decided to start a project that connected music and integration.

Before anything is said about the Music knows no boundaries project, something needs to be said about the organization itself. The Jesuit Refugee Service is a humanitarian international organization operating in more than 50 countries. It has been operating in Croatia since 1994, and its goal is to advocate for and promote the rights of refugees and displaced persons.

The JRS’s project Music Knows No Borders was born at the Porin Asylum seeker shelter in 2016 where music was understood to be the universal language of friendship. Regardless of language and cultural barriers, music provides mutual understanding and support. Music is also a therapy that helps people, who are in a particularly stressful and traumatic situation of refugee and exile, to release themselves and thus channel the energy of repressed trauma.

The work first began in the form of music workshops in which translators, volunteers, staff, together with asylum seekers, began holding workshops several times a week. The idea continued, so in early 2018, the first SOL-type refugee integration center of this kind opened in Croatia. It’s a meeting place for both refugees and the local community, so this wonderful story continued.

Music contributes to integration because it is one simple, everyday way of connecting people. The integration process (which is a two-way process) supports both asylum seekers and the local community. Music is a universal communication that serves to convey cultural personalities and specialties; it is also a medium for getting to know other cultures. It allows for wealth, understanding of customs, norms on a simpler but deeper level.

On the road to a better tomorrow, an organization recognized the power of music in connecting. “When nothing helps, only the music wipes away tears and encourages the heart.” Let’s hope there are more and more ideas like this, projects where a lot of little people in a lot of small places change the world with a song.


Article by: Karla Generalić, volunteer at Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights – Osijek

Photos: fb page Jesuit Refugee Service Croatia

June 27, 2019