Against a backdrop of the recent extremists’ attacks in the West and conflict in the Middle East, the little island of Gozo in the heart of the Mediterranean is making a strong stand for peace.

On 15 January 2016 the island of Gozo will have 21 more donkeys on it: Mediterranean Peace Donkeys. As the first exhibition in 2016 at in the renowned Ta’ Pinu National Shrine, a revered place of pilgrimage for centuries. The Mediterranean Peace Donkey project is a peacebuilding exhibition of 21 life-sized fiberglass “Maltese” donkeys painted by premier Gozitan, Maltese, Egyptian and Western artists symbolizing the need for peace and compassion between the Middle East and West, and more specifically throughout the Mediterranean Basin (i.e. a donkey for each of the 21 Mediterranean nations).

This exhibition takes place when there has never been a more important time for the peoples of the Mediterranean countries to unite and stand together for peace in the region and globally. This unique art exhibition is a crucial example that people everywhere can participate and work together towards harmony, understanding and peace, with the island of Gozo, both historically and contemporarily, representing an intercultural bridge between the East and West.

Organized by CARAVAN, an international peacebuilding arts NGO, The Mediterranean Peace Donkey exhibition uses the symbol of the renowned and endangered Maltese donkey to focus global attention on four critical needs:

-Interreligious Harmony: The donkey represents “peace and compassion” in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and in the cultures of the Middle East and West.

-East-West Relations: The Maltese donkey is an historic “East-West symbol,” as four Maltese donkeys were sent to General George Washington in 1786, prior to becoming the President of the United States of America.

-Donkey Welfare in Conflict Zones of the Middle East: As a “beast of burden” the donkey is a humanitarian symbol, thereby raising awareness about the difficult conditions facing working donkeys in the Middle East region.

-Humanitarian Assistance for Migrants/Refugees in the Mediterranean: As a means of journeying, the donkey also symbolizes the thousands of migrants and refugees passing through the Mediterranean region looking for a better life.

The forms for the life-size fiberglass donkeys was sculpted by the premier Egyptian artist Dr. Reda Abdel Rahman, which were then fabricated in Malta. The Mediterranean Peace Donkey exhibition in Gozo at the Ta’ Pinu National Shrine, follows their display over a two-month period in Mdina, Malta during the Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale. The whole initiative follows in the footsteps of both the widely successful 2013 CARAVAN Egyptian donkey initiative in Cairo, Egypt and London, England which was seen by over 120,000 people, and also of an international approach to public art that has featured painted animals.