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Memories of an Egyptian multicultural society

first_imgMulticulturalism is an everyday topic in Australia. But true multiculturalism – the one that was in the blood and skin of those who lived it on a daily basis, the one that didn’t need to be discussed in order to be achieved – will be the topic of a conference to be given at EEAMA on Sunday 23 June. Organised and supported by League of Greeks from Egypt and Middle East (EEAMA), in cooperation with Alexandrians Friendship Social Club (AAHA), the conference Remembering Egyptian Multicultural Society is for those interested to familiarise themselves with the wonderful country where the ‘community of nations’ was blossoming. The conference at EEAMA will be addressed to all the Greek, Italian, Lebanese, French, Armenian, Jewish and many other people who lived in Egypt before the Suez crisis started in 1956. But also to their descendants and average Australians, this lecture will give an opportunity to compare the ‘community of nations’ that existed in Egypt in the 19th and 20th century to the Australian multicultural society we live in today. A trigger for the lecture was the unusual story of Severio Minutolo, or more specifically, his father Raffaele. The family Minutolo had moved from Italy to Port Said, Egypt, in the mid 19th century. However, the events in Egypt and Port Said of 1956 and the Suez Crisis forced many families to escape their nests. “My father was engaged to a nice lady, they were going to get married. The day before the war started they greeted each other with a casual ‘see you tomorrow’. The war started, and they were forced to follow their families in different directions. Her family migrated to Australia. My father went back to Italy,” Severio Minutolo tells Neos Kosmos. The ‘tomorrow’ took 45 years to come. Raffaele visited Australia for the first time in 2001, for the wedding of his son Severio. That was when, through mutual friends that migrated from Alexandria to Australia decades ago, Raffaele found his once-fiancée Vanda in Sydney. They still keep in touch. For son Severio, this meant the start of project Suez 1956 and the beginning of exploring the Egyptian ‘community of nations’ further. In Alexandrians Friendship Social Club, in Melbourne, Severio met the president Nicolas Habib and other members, who would tell him more about the Egypt of those pre-war years, its society, the lifestyle in terms of living with Greek, Italian, Arabic people and all this meld of cultures and religions. Comparing modern Australia and pre-war Egypt, Severio says: “Multiculturalism was something that was in the skin and the blood of the people. You would hear the bells of the Catholic church, and at the same time the voice of the Muslim priest coming from the minaret; and this was considered something completely normal, with no tensions between people. “There was a deep respect and deep knowledge of the beliefs of the people, in terms of living with these differences – not like here, where we respect each other as long as we are distant and ignorant of other religions. “In my opinion, multiculturalism can’t be a real form of culture – to unify nations, people, and communities – if there is no deep knowledge of what it means. Greek, Lebanese, Jewish, Italian – it was all one Mediterranean culture in Egypt,” Severio says. Alongside Severio Minutolo, the second main speaker of the conference will be AAHA’s President, Nicolas Habib. “It wasn’t just a personal story that thrilled us, but also the other aspects of Severio’s movie fascinated us. It reminded us of life we lived in Egypt. That unique society where all of us, regardless of nationality, lived close to each other without prejudice, differences, and despite of our ethnic identity,” says born in Alexandria Nicolas Habib, who is of Greek origin on his mother’s side. The screening of digital storytelling by members of AAHA will also be presented on the night, as well as the screening of Suez 1956 – A story of memories recounted. The lecture will take place at EEAMA’s Reception Hall Stars International, at 1c Bell Street Preston, on Sunday 23 June, at 2.00 pm. Entry is free. RSVP by calling (03) 8838 8982, or contact Severio Minutolo, on 0435 041 125. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more