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Colombian singer lends voice to refugee cause

Colombian singer lends voice to refugee cause

Through his concerts in Spain, award-winning rock star Juanes is drawing attention to the plight of refugees and displaced people, something the Medellín-born singer-songwriter knows well.
30 August 2005
Colombian singer-songwriter Juanes singing for the victims of conflict at a concert in A Coruña, north-western Spain.

A CORUÑA, Spain, August 30 (UNHCR) - For years, he has been singing about the conflict in his homeland, for an end to violence and a return to peace. Now Colombian singer-songwriter Juanes is lending his voice to highlight the plight of people uprooted from their homes.

The award-winning rock star held a sold-out concert in Spain on Friday, when UNHCR launched an awareness campaign on behalf of refugees and displaced people in front of some 12,000 fans who packed the coliseum at A Coruña in north-western Spain.

"It was not easy to grow up in a country where bombs were exploding every day," the Medellín-born singer told UNHCR. "People in my country have suffered and are still suffering a lot. At the same time, it seems incredible people's capacity to keep moving forward, their desire to live."

He added, "I want to help them. It is a question of conscience that we all should help. I am the father of two children and I wish for the young Colombian generation a positive future."

He opened the concert with the song, "Sueños", appealing for peace and the release of people taken hostage in the Colombian conflict. Fans of all ages, races and social background swayed and danced in unison.

Two giant video screens showed images of the victims of conflict as Juanes sang "Que pasa", or "What's happening" (in the world), and expressed his solidarity with the world's most vulnerable people. The crowd went wild with applause and standing ovations. Those in wheelchairs echoed his words and his Colombian fans waved their colourful flags in excitement.

"Hey, you're the organisation my singer supports! I heard about it a few times on the radio," said a 50-year-old woman when a UNHCR worker handed her a leaflet at the concert. The leaflet features a compilation of Juanes' main songs, with messages about war, loss, separation, fear and peace.

"My parents and I had to flee Colombia for the same reasons explained in this leaflet," said Eva, a young girl from Chocó, one of the most troubled provinces in north-western Colombia. "Today we drove 400 km to see Juanes, because he makes us feel a bit closer to Colombia, even if we cannot go back for the moment."

It is refugee experiences like this that Juanes hopes to show to the world. In addition to his concerts and the leaflets, he is also raising awareness through radio spots that were first used for World Refugee Day (June 20) and now for the publicity surrounding his concerts in Spain.

"What's it like to be a refugee?" he asks in one of the four radio spots set to the soundtrack of "Sueños". "To see your husband shot and your village burned. A widow at 17, the challenge of a new life."

Juanes' Colombian fans with UNHCR leaflets distributed during the concert.

The current radio campaign is being heard all over Spain, where his concerts will run until mid-September. The World Refugee Day radio spots were broadcast in all Spanish-speaking countries, including Juanes' native Colombia and his current home in the United States.

His partnership with the UN refugee agency that started in May this year looks set to grow. "You can count on me because I want to keep on helping you as much as I can," he told UNHCR.

By María Jesús Vega