Tolerance

Most important activity this week? For Poland most probably the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. My deputy Mikael Benthe attended the huge Poland-China-Central Europe Forum yesterday. A lot is happening in term of increased commercial relations and more will come.

Most important activity for myself? Most probably the conference on tolerance, organized by Professor Danuta Hübner five days ago. Professor Hübner who is Member of the Europan Parliament and former Member of the European Commission did certainly in this way take a significant, forward looking initiative.

I was asked to participate in a panel discussing best practices of intercultural dialogue and struggle against xenophobia together with i.a. Minister Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz. Which I did.

Not an easy subject for sure. Sweden has not least been facing challenges in the area of integration. In my contribution I shared e.g. the following reflections:

“It goes without saying that integration of immigrants – a job, a steady income, knowledge of Swedish language – is one key to success. In parallel that is true also for the potential perpetrators of hate crime. A depressive economy obviously adds fuel to intolerance.

But to be honest we don’t have the one good practice. We know from research that there is a clear linkage between attitudes to minorities and education about e.g. racism and human rights. And we know that there is a clear connection between negative attitudes among people and their educational background. The lower the education, the more hostility we find towards e.g. Jews and Muslims.

Yes, we promote intercultural dialogue and yes, we believe it makes a difference. One of many initiatives has been the setting up of The Living History Forum – a Swedish public authority which use the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity as a starting point for efforts to promote tolerance, democracy and human rights.

We have actually seen a decrease in xenophobia the last years according to the surveys made.

But it must start with some very basic approaches. Like the simple one. See the individual man or woman. They are not numbers, they are human beings beyond all statistics. And when human beings meet there is always the potential for dialogue.”

Poland will gradually see more of diversity emerging, so these issues are certainly well worth discussing here and now. A representative of the Roma population made some important comments from the point of view of a minority requiring significant attention in terms of equality and rights. Another aspect discussed was the pure concept of tolerance itself. Could it be regarded as too soft, too one sided? Should we rather talk about solidarity meaning a more active approach to find a common ground in intercultural dialogue?

I will be happy to continue following and continue participating in this important debate. It is great that it now is given more attention than before. Not least thanks to Professor Hübner.


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