Immigrant: A Life Between Two Cultures (by Ms. Miriam Baghdady, )

Several people have already talked about personal development to build proper character. I’d like to share about the challenges and benefits of a life between two cultures. The Free Girls Movement focuses on individuals with an immigrant background. I was born in Austria, and my parents are from Egypt. They come from a Christian minority and thought they’d have a better life in Europe. I grew up with a part of me that I didn’t understand. In my town we were the only family that was different, and I always felt I had to explain myself. I didn’t know where I really belonged to. Who am I really? Where do I belong? What is my culture? I couldn’t explain it to others, but mostly I couldn’t even explain it to myself. Living between two cultures seemed more like a challenge, I didn’t see the benefits. But I began to get involved with this topic on an academic level, and that helped me develop my character and I started to see my diversity as a benefit not a challenge. The public discourse often focusses on the negative aspect of migration, and the children of these families feel it. They feel lost, they don’t know what to do, and they don't understand what is happening to them. They don't see the benefits, and are not taught to appreciate it. This often leads to a rise in aggressive behaviour, being secluded/quiet, or radicalised. These youth don't find their way in the society. I began to understand the significance of talking about this. When I shared it [my story] with children they were happy to have someone they could relate to. The Free Girl Movement does a lot of mentoring. The future you want, means starting from knowing who you are. And seeing diversity as a benefit, I think is one of the biggest contributors to peace. I’d like to end with these words by John Hume:

“Difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth, and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Ms. Miriam Baghdady, Co-Founder Free Girls Movement, Austria
Conference November 18-20, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia

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