Why we need to fight discrimination together? – Turning words into action to address anti-Semitism, intolerance and discrimination
Allow me to start my speech with recalling the words of the German Pastor Martin Niemöller who was opposing the Nazis’ Aryan Paragraph and the Nazis’ state control of the churches for which he was taken into Dachau concentration camp. He survived the war and became a vocal pacifist and anti-war activist and campaigner of the nuclear disarmament.
He said the following:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Although, there is no war in Europe at the moment, and hopefully we will never see those days coming back, there are signs of reminiscence of that era. Yet, solidarity, mutual understanding and compassion is diminishing. Fear, anger and hatred is spreading instead.
We must all stand up against it until we can. Furthermore, since the second world was Europe and particularly the EU has been a guarantee of human rights and a forerunner on anti-discrimination and equal treatment, regardless of race, religion of sexual orientation. Even in its weakened position the European Social Model, the welfare system of the member states has been able to move forward the cause of equal access to all services, while much work still remains to be done.
More specifically, the integration and help of vulnerable groups from various backgrounds however has been taking a particularly worrying trend recently. We are amongst the wealthiest nations on Earth and we are capable of helping them financially, socially and emotionally. However, there are countries which are simply not willing to participate, to share solidarity either on European level or on national level.
For example my own country Hungary is not willing to follow the European model of integrating asylum seekers. The number of voluntarily integrated asylum seekers is zero. There is a nationwide campaign against the so called “forced colonization” of migrants organized by Brussels. The campaign and the referendum on the subject altogether cost much more for the taxpayers and the country than the integration of the approximately 1300 refugees Hungary supposed to accept.
It is clear that the government would be able to finance the refugees, but they rather play the Anti-Brussels and the Anti-refugee cards.
In the meanwhile the Government breaks the internal social contract as well. They silently but strongly incite hatred against those Hungarians who have been living in Hungary for at least 600 years: the Roma. The government is two faced in its relations with the Jewish communities as well. On one hand they acknowledge the loss of the Hungarian Jews on the other they deny the role of the governments and the citizens played in their discrimination and their ghettoization and extermination.
In order to stop the spreading of such thinking we should fight all kinds of discrimination together.
We must not allow people to believe that simplified answers exist for the problems of today’s society and the future of Europe cannot be the culture of isolation. Isolation from refugees, from Roma, from non-Christians and from those who migrate from one EU country to another in searching for a better life or decent work. Europe has been the melting pot of different cultures and different habits since the very beginning of its history. Diversity is the driving force that makes Europe not only survive struggles but also serves as the engine of development.
Solidarity between people facing different forms of exclusion is essential: Roma and asylum seekers, members of different religions, workers and unemployed people must act together. Any type of discrimination aims nothing else but to find those tiny disparities between these groups that can create misunderstanding, jealousy and even hate. What really threatens European culture is not Roma, refugees, LBTQIA people or different religions, but exactly this kind of thinking.
To have the Europe we want we all need to work together in order to secure peace and prosperity. I wish you a fruitful discussion during the event.