The Arabic Cultural Center in Sibiu appears in the context of a dynamic and fast-moving world, determined on the one hand by globalization and a regime of spatial mobility specific to it, and on the other hand by war, persecution, famine, and poverty. The Arab world has been severely affected by social conflict and political upheavals that have caused real humanitarian crises. As a result, the Member States of the European Union have faced the problem of managing a huge influx of refugees and immigrants from war-torn and poverty-stricken Middle Eastern countries.
Unlike other European countries, such as Germany, for example, Romania has not been affected by waves of refugees. However, several thousand refugees from the Middle East have also settled in our country, in addition to immigrants from Arab countries who already lived in Romania before the European refugee crisis. In the year 2000 alone, 6,138 asylum applications were registered in Romania, which shows that the phenomenon is growing.
Sibiu is not a refugee center in Romania, as is the case with other cities in the country, such as Timișoara, Bucharest or Șomcuța Mare (Maramureș county). But as a university center where a Faculty of Medicine operates, Sibiu has attracted many Arab students, some of whom remain in the city to practice their profession. As a business center, Sibiu has also attracted Arab entrepreneurs, who have set up successful businesses. In Sibiu and its surroundings there is therefore an Arab population. However, it cannot be said that it also forms an Arab “community”, in the sense of a collective of people with common interests and activities (language, culture, art, etc.).
One of the purposes for which the Arabic Cultural Center in Sibiu was established is to contribute to the development of an Arab community that will bring together immigrants/refugees from the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The Center aims to provide them with a meeting place as well as to provide a platform for helping and care through which immigrants of Arab origin can develop relationships and get to know each other better.
Secondly, the Arabic Cultural Center in Sibiu embraces the mission of promoting intercultural communication. We will seek, through the cultural activities that we will carry out, to facilitate a dialogue as open as possible between Arabs and Romanians, leading to the knowledge of the “Other”, to mutual understanding and coexistence in conditions of mutual prosperity.
As part of this mission to facilitate intercultural dialogue, the Center aims to carry out activities aimed at fighting stereotypes about the Arab world. In this sense, the Arabic Cultural Center in Sibiu aims to promote the genuine Arab culture and to dismantle cultural prejudices. We will pay careful attention to combating prejudices and stereotypes that generate anxiety about the danger of Islamization, but also those which make direct associations between Arabs, Muslims, and terrorists.
All our activities, regardless of their nature and specificity, will seek to facilitate the socio-cultural integration of immigrants from Arab countries in the Romanian society in general and in the local community in Sibiu in particular. Socio-cultural and economic integration does not in any way mean abandoning the cultural, ethnic or religious identity specific to Arab societies. On the contrary, we are convinced that in a diversified world and in a multicultural city, each community can cultivate its own identity, traditions, and customs, while at the same time contributing to the well-being of the community in which it lives.
Translated by Fawzia G. Rehejeh