'Salam' is an Arabic word meaning 'peace' and is commonly used as a greeting.
'Salam Neighbor' is the title of a documentary I believe everyone should see. A film made to bring unprecedented insight into the reality of the Syrian refugee crisis. From within the boundaries of the world's largest refugee camp, from the eyes of those at the heart of it all: the refugees in Za'atari Refugee Camp in Jordan.
The film seeks to foster a human connection between us, the viewers, and a handful of Syrian men, women and children who, through civil war, have found themselves becoming refugees. It is my hope and prayer that as we engage with these people, our neighbours, through the medium of film, that our hearts would be moved with compassion to bring about a call to action.
The film documents stories of incredible perseverance, humanity and hope. I sat in wonder at the creativity of a lady who has started a small business out of collecting plastic bags from around the camp. I admired a man who works in a program which offers children, who have suffered so much trauma they can't face going to school, an in-between option aiming to see them back to the classroom. I was inspired by the men and women working in roles to help facilitate the healing of the psychological wounds of their fellow Syrians.
The film does not hide the stark realities of the war that produced the 80,000 refugees requiring such a camp in the first place, with millions more displaced both within Syria and around the world.
You walk the footsteps of an overnight escape across the border. You experience the sounds and vibrations of warfare occurring just 13 kilometres away across the Syrian border. You watch as parents recount the horrific loss of their sons, one after the other. You watch children desperately trying to avoid situations which remind them of the horrors experienced in their short time on earth.
This was apparently the first time the UN has ever allowed filmmakers to register and live within a refugee camp. They went through the process of registration, were provided with the same supplies a refugee would receive, and left to work out their purpose and routine like everyone else. There were of course some differences, in that they paid for what they received, and different security measures were required because of the undeniable differences between an American film crew and genuine refugees.
It was so beautiful to see the way the locals welcomed them into their 'neighbourhood', helped them set up their tent, and how them being there and taking an interest was such an encouragement to those who call Za'atari home.
However, with all humanitarian disasters where those from the outside are trying to seek the good of those who are in need, I feel like the film makers could have been more prepared to deal with people who are overcoming immense trauma. Mistakes were made, which one can only hope have no lasting negative impact, but their realisation only adds to portraying the enormity of dealing with such a crisis.
More than statistics
Seeing the human face of the refugee crisis makes it more than a bunch of statistics. Relating to these people makes me wonder what it would be like if our situations were reversed. How would I, as a refugee, long for the world to respond to my crisis?
At the end of the film, the comment is made: 'When neighbours are in need, hopefully they can come together and help each other.' I ask myself: what does obedience to the command to 'love my neighbour' look like in the face of the Syrian refugee crisis in the world today?
For more information on the film project, go to livingonone.org/salamneighbor
The trailer can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6SxPSZVD9o