Diaspora and Peace-making
The third of the summer conferences, ‘Learning to live in a multicultural world’ opened on Tuesday 26 July 2011 at the Initiatives of Change Caux conference centre in Switzerland. The conference will run until 31 July and has brought together 200 Europeans and representatives from diaspora communities, from Sri Lanka, Somalia, Eritrea, Burundi, Afghanistan, Serbia or Bosnia, to reflect on the multicultural future of the European continent.
The session was opened by Anne Catherine Ménétrey-Savary, a former Swiss member of parliament. In her speech she condemned the xenophobic and Islamophobic trends rooted in the lack of trust between migrant communities and the citizens of host countries. ‘The rise of nationalist movements has marked the transformation of Europe into a fortress against the threat of invasion by migrants from the South,’ she said.
She spoke about the theme of the conference in relation to the situation in Switzerland, and said, ‘the dominant idea is that anything that is different is threatening. Many Swiss are living in a fantasy, which is all the more scary because the reality of migration is unknown to them,’ she said. Rupan Sinagavesan was born in Sri Lanka and migrated to Switzerland at the age of 16, where he became a member of the City council in Zug.
During his speech he said that there are weaknesses of multiculturalism when a society wants to builds relationships based on cohabitation ‘multiculturalism is like a mosaic, each stone of the mosaic has its own unique color: the Tamils have their own, the Turkish theirs, and the Iranians have theirs.
This means there is no cohabitation, only coexistence’. He proposed that ‘it would be beneficial to practice transculturalism if we really want to focus on coexistence between people’.
Turning failure into hope
Savary-Ménétrey asked participants not to lose heart and continue developing a vision that will build a multicultural and inclusive world. ‘I am convinced that such a society can exist, even in Switzerland. It is like an underground river that flows warm and strong from below, and from below boils the prejudices that govern us,’ she said.
Jean-Pierre Mean, President of Caux-Initiatives of Change, stressed the need to fight against prejudices, if we want to build a world without hate or fear. ‘Prejudice is the most dangerous to those who do not question. We must fight relentlessly against it. Each individual must consider a change they want to see in the world,’ he concluded
During the week, participants will have a choice of practical training courses where they will learn about such themes as religious diversity, conflict transformation, as well as intergenerational dialogue, and children’s rights.
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