BY ISN STAFF | July 27, 2023
On June 20, 2023, Jesuit Refugee Service Middle East and North Africa (MENA) released Dear Neighbor, a documentary series in partnership with JRS/USA that interviews six refugees located in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria.
The stories include diverse perspectives: a Sudanese rapper, a car mechanic in Lebanon, a 12-year-old Syrian innovator, and a young woman paving the path for girls in sports. While each story is unique, the common theme is resilience.
Carmen Moreno, the communications officer for JRS MENA, shared more about how Dear Neighbor came to be and the sense of shared humanity that she hopes audiences will glean from it.
“I started working with refugees and forcibly displaced people because I believe that our home is the only place in which we really feel safe and protected. As a human, I cannot imagine a worse situation than having to flee your country and leave your home,” said Moreno, reflecting on what motivates her. “I felt the need, or the responsibility, as a human being to support these people in such difficult circumstances.”
Throughout her career in communications, Moreno noticed that refugees were always depicted in a particular way: “as just helpless victims, recipients of help, and always dependent on humanitarian aid.” With Dear Neighbor, Moreno wanted to move beyond those stereotypes and show the strength, creativity, and determination of the refugees she works with. “Each and every refugee or displaced person’s story I filmed has a special meaning and power.”
In addition to the devastating circumstances that force displacement, refugees face mental, societal, and economic challenges that often stem from discrimination. Several refugees featured in Dear Neighbor noted how discrimination has impacted their ability to rebuild their lives in a new city. Elham, a young Somali woman now living in Jordan, is working towards attending university, but she has been denied access to scholarships because the applications do not recognize her nationality.
“I want to pursue my education, I want to graduate from university as others, but I cannot get this chance,” Elham says in Dear Neighbor. In the meantime, Elham has become a remarkable role model to the girls in her refugee and the Jordanian community. “We are providing a safe space for girls because it is their right to play,” she explained.
“[Refugees] are braver than regular people, but they have the same rights and the same dreams. They are full of skills and abilities to contribute to the new societies they are coming to,” Moreno said.
Moreno hopes audiences will feel inspired to “build a better society where we [find] neighbors here, next to us, there in the U.S., the Middle East, or wherever we are.”
“There is something that we all share as humans, no matter your religion, cultural background, country, race, we all share something which is that we try to take care of the people we are close to, right?” Moreno concluded. “Our family, our friends, even our neighbors—that is why this is the title of this project, because I wanted to show that we are all neighbors in this world.”