The inclusion or exclusion of refugees in contemporary Europe has been a contentious topic of debate and is high on the international agenda. With faster extradition procedures and more limited border crossings, the attitude of Western governments to asylum applications has seemed increasingly restrictive.
Economic and educational inclusion are often given precedence over other areas, but a new project is focusing on social and cultural inclusion. Started in Berlin, ‘Multaka: Museums as Meeting Point’ aims to encourage the sharing of historical and national knowledge. The concept is to train Syrian and Iraqi refugees to become museum guides so that they can take tours in their mother tongues.
The course is currently offered to young adults and teenagers, but will be extended to older applicants as the programme develops. The tours play on the relationship between the host country and the guides’ home countries. Those involved in organising the project hope that it will help to improve native residents’ knowledge of other cultures and give refugees a sense of pride and involvement in their new community.
At this time there are four German museums that are involved in the Multaka, but more are soon to be added with the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford developing their own version of the scheme. There have also been talks with the Louvre and MoMA. Of the four museums currently taking part, two focus on Syrian and Iraqi artefacts and two on the connections between Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
Students aspiring to study Philosophy and Theology could prepare for their interviews by examining how different religions and religious artefacts are perceived from different cultural stand points. Art Historians might like to consider how museums can be regarded as a meeting point (multaka) for our common past. Those aiming to study HSPS could investigate the social and political impact of such a programme as this.