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A Common Thread
Language Connects Arabic Families at FIS
The multicultural community at FIS is won- derfully diverse and enriching. Sharing a common cultural heritage within that com- munity comes easily to those from the larger national groups – Germans, Americans or Koreans, for example – but families who are the sole rep- resentatives of their country may miss the sense of belonging that a group which shares cultural values and traditions can provide when they are far from home.
At FIS, a small group of families have come together through word-of-mouth and the invaluable work of the PTG, to explore and enjoy a shared cultural heritage based on a single commonality: language.
”When I found the other Arab women at FIS, I
felt I had finally found family outside of my home
Dalia El Abd, Egyptian Parent
Despite coming from countries scattered across more than 7,000 kilometers of Northern Africa and the Middle East, from Morocco to Egypt and from Chad and Sudan to the Arabian Peninsula, it is classical Arabic that initially brought these families together. Although their dialects varied, they held nuanced conversations, discussed experiences in their new home and shared a sense of humor, all of which were so important in transmitting a sense of belonging. As cognitive research suggests, a shared language can profoundly influence the way people see the world; notwithstanding their different backgrounds, this is exactly what the group discovered as they began to work with one another at the school.
Their first project together was preparing an Arabic booth for Worldfest several years
ago. This work required that they ask themselves more precisely what they had in common. They shared a fondness for certain cuisine, an appreciation of classical Arab music and the famous divas of the Arab world, Fairouz and
Umm Kulthum. They also felt a desire to share these things – and Arab hospitality – with the FIS community.
After Worldfest, the conversations
continued. The group found that they came from ethnic backgrounds and countries as diverse as those of the European Union. But in spite of their national differences, they also found they had a shared sense of history, as their homelands had been part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Most importantly, they discovered they had common values, many of which come from the book “which tells the best of stories,” the Koran.
As the most important work of literature in the Arab-speaking world, the Koran presents values to live by in its ancient stories. These same values are ones fostered by FIS: honesty, integrity, taking responsibility for one’s actions, and that people are of equal worth. Further, that tolerance and compassion are essential to living in a diverse community and that our lives are enriched by diversity. Given these shared values, it is not surprising that our Arabic families feel at home at FIS. They share the belief that all races and religions deserve respect and bring value to a tolerant diverse community.
Many of the countries from which our Arabic families come have experienced political and civil unrest in recent years, and they all share concerns about friends and family at home. They are dismayed by the spread of these conflicts to Europe, their adopted home, and have all come to know the challenges of being Arab in Europe during these difficult times. But they have also come to appreciate FIS as a safe haven, where a philosophy of tolerance and shared values enable them to feel not only at home, but to be indispensable ambassadors of Arab culture within the FIS community.
Vera Thiers,
Manager of Marketing & Public Relations
February 2016 FIS World 5

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