Karim Al-Zand: Music: Luctus Profugis
elegy for the displaced
Luctus Profugis is a lament that reflects on the current European refugee crisis. The title translates roughly from the Latin as “Grief for the Displaced.” The word “profugus” has a connection to the opening lines of Virgil’s “Aeneid,” which describes one of the earliest refugees: Aeneas fleeing the Trojan war to the shores of Italy. In Luctus Profugis, the percussionist at the heart of the ensemble plays a simple three-note motive that repeats for the duration of the piece. Its persistence symbolizes for me the refugees’ journey, their tenacity, courage and resilience.
The current European refugee crisis started in 2015, when tens of thousands of migrants began fleeing their war ravaged homes to seek asylum in the West. Displaced families, primarily from Syria and other areas of conflict, endured perilous journeys to reach safe destinations in the EU. The most dangerous routes have included crossings of the Eastern Mediterranean to ports in Greece and Italy. Thousands of migrants are estimated to have perished at sea. In the United States, which arguably has played the largest role in catalyzing the migration, the reaction to the crisis has been characterized politically by inaction and fear-mongering. Governors in 26 states (including Texas) have refused to settle Syrian asylum seekers. To date, the US has settled 0.05% of the total number of refugees. Canada and Germany have settled over 19 times that number. It is my hope that Luctus Profugis serves as not only an elegy, but also a call to action.