EuropeStoryI Believe / A portrait of Bressoux by HJ Hunter

'I Believe’ is a portrait of Bressoux, a multireligious suburb of Liège in Belgium. To me Bressoux is the world in a nutshell. Muslims live together with Kurds, Jezidi’s, Italians, African Christians and Syrian Orthodox on less then a square mile.

‘I Believe’ is a portrait of Bressoux, a multireligious suburb of Liège in Belgium.

To me Bressoux is the world in a nutshell. Muslims live together with Kurds, Jezidi’s, Italians, African Christians and Syrian Orthodox on less then a square mile. It’s a crossroad of European, Arabic and African cultures, with French as their mutual language.

Each ethnic group has its own church, its own community center or its own café. Closed worlds, especially for a stranger like me, coming from the Netherlands with a camera. Living in a time of worldwide religious international conflicts, I became curious how all these people manage to live together. Are the tensions between for example Turks and Kurds imported to Bressoux? Is it a birdsnest for Islamic fundamentalism? Or is it a peacefull community with no more social problems then elsewhere?

I found these girls playing at the former railway station. They are not permitted to be photographed in public by a stranger, but liked my attention. So they came up with this solution. Many Moroccan and Turkish adolescent girls struggle with their identity in Western society. They need to be obedient, caring and humble according to their own traditions and protect the honour of the family.
I found these girls playing at the former railway station. They are not permitted to be photographed in public by a stranger, but liked my attention. So they came up with this solution. Many Moroccan and Turkish adolescent girls struggle with their identity in Western society. They need to be obedient, caring and humble according to their own traditions and protect the honour of the family.

Community center of the Jezidi’s. The left painting shows the tomb of the founder of the Jezidisme, one of the oldest religions in the world (North Iraq, 2000 BC). The Jezidi’s endured centuries of persecution by hostile Islamic regimes. In 2014, more than 500 men and boys from Kocho were killed by IS. Young women were brought to the sex slave market in Raqqa.
Community center of the Jezidi’s. The left painting shows the tomb of the founder of the Jezidisme, one of the oldest religions in the world (North Iraq, 2000 BC). The Jezidi’s endured centuries of persecution by hostile Islamic regimes. In 2014, more than 500 men and boys from Kocho were killed by IS. Young women were brought to the sex slave market in Raqqa.

I’ve decided to document the everyday life of several individuals from different communities in still and moving images. My main focus is to find out how people feel about their life in Bressoux. What are their dreams, fears and thoughts on social, political and religious issues? And how do these beliefs effect everyday life?

The result of this ongoing project will be a multimedia documentary on a website, where still and moving images, text and sound are used to tell the stories of the place, the communities and the individuals. By showing the lifestyles, behaviors and deepest thoughts of our fellow people, I hope the viewer is willing to engage a dialogue with his own beliefs. And perhaps this self-reflection can contribute to a social dialogue based upon curiosity in stead of fear. For this is my own strong belief: If you have an open mind to anything you don’t know yet, everything in life will be softer. [Project page on Facebook]

Community center of the Kurds. The walls of the building are covered with images of the improsond political leader Özalan and (deceased) Kurdish soldiers, who have received the status of martyr for the community.
Community center of the Kurds. The walls of the building are covered with images of the improsond political leader Özalan and (deceased) Kurdish soldiers, who have received the status of martyr for the community.

Memorial meeting of the Kurdish community after the death of Bungi Diren (22). This PKK soldier was killed on August 17 during a fight with IS. She joined the forces when she was 18 years old. Her mother and sister on the front row are overwhelmed by emotions while the audiance watches a video with recordings of Bungi’s time in the army.
Memorial meeting of the Kurdish community after the death of Bungi Diren (22). This PKK soldier was killed on August 17 during a fight with IS. She joined the forces when she was 18 years old. Her mother and sister on the front row are overwhelmed by emotions while the audiance watches a video with recordings of Bungi’s time in the army.

Children of an East European Roma family. Bad accomodation, criminality and school absence within this population are problems where the Belgian government hasn’t found an answer for yet.
Children of an East European Roma family. Bad accomodation, criminality and school absence within this population are problems where the Belgian government hasn’t found an answer for yet.

In the seventies this was the 'Manhattan' of Bressoux . A then modern district with high buildings, social facilities, a church and a park. In 2015 four fully outworn flats were demolished and the remaining inhabitants were relocated to different neighbourhoods in Liège . It helped to reduce the rate of criminal activities.
In the seventies this was the ‘Manhattan’ of Bressoux . A then modern district with high buildings, social facilities, a church and a park. In 2015 four fully outworn flats were demolished and the remaining inhabitants were relocated to different neighbourhoods in Liège . It helped to reduce the rate of criminal activities.

Everywhere in Bressoux you can find groups of young men hanging around on the streets, feeling bored. Or they gather in La Place, the only community center for young people, to watch TV, play a game or smoke a water pipe. They complain that there is no work and they feel discriminated when applying for jobs.
Everywhere in Bressoux you can find groups of young men hanging around on the streets, feeling bored. Or they gather in La Place, the only community center for young people, to watch TV, play a game or smoke a water pipe. They complain that there is no work and they feel discriminated when applying for jobs.

Young muslims listen to the Imam in the crowded room behind them. A common explanation for the rise of extremism is that the older generation has lost their grip on the youth. Their message to the youth is that IS has nothing to do with the islam.
Young muslims listen to the Imam in the crowded room behind them. A common explanation for the rise of extremism is that the older generation has lost their grip on the youth. Their message to the youth is that IS has nothing to do with the islam.

Children watch a sheep being slaughtered in their house on the first day of the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice.
Children watch a sheep being slaughtered in their house on the first day of the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice.

Playground at the mosque Al-Itissam after the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice..
Playground at the mosque Al-Itissam after the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice..

Bressoux is a typical Belgian quarter, with a lot of gray and brown tones in the streets. The bright colors of some buildings remind of colorful Turkish and Moroccan cities.
Bressoux is a typical Belgian quarter, with a lot of gray and brown tones in the streets. The bright colors of some buildings remind of colorful Turkish and Moroccan cities.

Jean Claude Détruit was a specialist in clearing mines for the Belgian navy. He traveled several times around the world, married eight women from different countries and has twelve children. Ten years ago he came back to Bressoux, impecunious. His friends call him Popeye.
Jean Claude Détruit was a specialist in clearing mines for the Belgian navy. He traveled several times around the world, married eight women from different countries and has twelve children. Ten years ago he came back to Bressoux, impecunious. His friends call him Popeye.

This bench at the edge of the park is the permanent meeting place for women from Armenia. It is the first country in the world with Christianity as a state religion.
This bench at the edge of the park is the permanent meeting place for women from Armenia. It is the first country in the world with Christianity as a state religion.

Regular visitors of Fontanella, one of the few Belgium café’s left in Bressoux.
Regular visitors of Fontanella, one of the few Belgium café’s left in Bressoux.

Woman from Congo at the Place de la Liberation, in front of the apartment block where she's been living for the past fifteen years.
Woman from Congo at the Place de la Liberation, in front of the apartment block where she’s been living for the past fifteen years.

About HJ Hunter

I’m a storyteller. In my young years I discovered a talent for writing. I studied literature and wanted to become a journalist or novelist, but instead I developed a career as commercial writer. All my life I’ve had a ‘silent’ passion for photography. In the analog period I did some courses and had a dark room at home. But it’s only some four years ago that photography turned my life upside down. In 2012 I bought a decent camera and started doing what I should have done a long time ago: taking photography serious. Since then I work, eat and dream with photography. Finally I follow my heart, not yet knowing where this will bring me to.

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Photo by ©Ryotaro Horiuchi | Japan | Issue#14
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