By Maya Palit
“It’s very easy to create a sense of hatred when you talk numbers, but when you see the faces of people, when you look at them in the eye one by one, then the whole thing changes, and that’s what art and literature can do.”
This is Isabel Allende talking about the ways in which a new campaign led by writers and artists hopes to take a stand against xenophobia.
And she should know a thing or two about it, having been coerced into exile in Venezuela after receiving death threats in the aftermath of the 1973 military coup against her father’s cousin Salvador Allende.
The new international campaign, launched today, is called Make Space. It has been organised by PEN International, an association of writers from across a hundred countries. According to a report in The Guardian, the project aims to organise events, advocacy, and publications around the themes of displacement, political persecution as a result of dissent, asylum seeking, refugees, and the censorship of journalists and writers. It will also provide assistance for asylum applications, and is going to carry on for three years.
If you’re wondering why these writers only just decided to get proactive the first paragraph of the opening statement clarifies the motives behind holding the movement today:
Our world is in crisis. People have always been forced to move against their will: they’ve fled wars and natural disasters, persecution and violence. But never before has the forced movement of people occurred at such a rate. 1 in 113 people in the world today have been driven from their homes. Simultaneously, a rising climate of nationalistic xenophobia among host nations has made resettlement for those who’ve experienced forced displacement increasingly dangerous and uncertain.