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Lessons in multiculturalism

Posted Date: 26/06/2012

The Times of Malta -26 June 2012 (Media InterAct)

by Lino Briguglio


SOS (Malta) organised a high level conference with the theme A Portrait Of Third Country National In Malta in order to afford non-EU nationals living in these islands the opportunity to give an accurate picture of what it is like to live here as a foreigner.

This Media InterAct project, co-financed through the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals (a term meaning, in this context, nationals of non-EU countries) also served as a platform for local speakers to present their views, their achievements and recommendations.

From the start, it was made abundantly clear that concern for the rights of ethnic groups has long been an important component of Malta’s relations with other nations. In fact, such policies enjoy the support not only of all the political spectrum but also the massive involvement of the Church through its various agencies.

One should also mention the love, care and devotion showered on adopted non-Maltese children as in the recent pitiful story of the young Eritrean girl and her Maltese carer. Surely, this was a case that demonstrates the deep-rooted hospitality of which our island should be very proud.

In the aftermath of the massacre of many innocent youths in Norway last July, which tragically exposed the consequences of intolerance towards multiculturalism, our educational institutions stand out as a beacon of light demonstrating the exuberance and benefits derived from living in a multicultural environment even at a very early stage. Perhaps not enough exposure has been given in the international media to the excellent work being performed in our schools (state, Church and independent) towards smooth ethnic integration where Maltese children and their peers from abroad learn, study and play together under one roof in a very congenial and stimulating atmosphere.

It is simply amazing how our teachers cope and foster with loving care this multi-cultural environment. It may surprise many readers, because teachers tend to hide their light under a bushel, that the primary schools of St Paul’s Bay, Marsascala and St Julians have on their school registers children hailing from over 20 countries in each school. The intercultural events carried out in our schools relating to traditions, customs, song and dance very often go unnoticed but it is an undeniable fact that our schools are global villages promoting international understanding not only in the schools but also in the whole community.

How satisfying it is to hear these children showing exceptional fluency in the Maltese language.

In the light of the above, it is imperative that the Books Committee in future will consider the inclusion of stories featuring various ethnic groups. Furthermore, nursery rhymes and fairy tales that display any negative ethnic or racial trends should be immediately withdrawn.

This groundbreaking conference also recommended the commemoration of non European patriots who recently made a great contribution towards racial integration and a policy of non-violence.

At this point in time, Martin Luther King comes to my mind and his pregnant plea for justice still reverberates in my ear, “I had a dream”, predicting a day when the promise of freedom and equality for all would become a reality. Predictably, he paid with his life in 1968.

I remember the great Indian patriot and pacifist Mahatma Gandhi who was also the sacrificial lamb as his non-violence stance was gaining ground.

There is also Nelson Mandela, with his slogan of national reconciliation, in spite of his being for many years a long-suffering victim of the inhuman apartheid policy.

Sport, the greatest social lubricant, can be an essential element in facilitating racial integration. Sport centres, associations and clubs can act as catalysts in promoting and organising sports activities among non-EU nationals including those immigrants in “reception centres”.

It is shrewdly remarked that Malta’s smooth transition to independence occurred without any bloodshed or bitterness owing to the fact that British personnel were active within Maltese society joining sports clubs, band clubs and other institutions.

I am extremely pleased to reveal that in the Ramblers’ Association we have quite a big number of non-EU nationals doing voluntary work in the administration and as walk leaders. Besides enriching mutual understanding and respect, this practice can also stimulate a healthy environment.

Unfortunately, it is regretted that in Malta there still lingers a very small residue who is allergic to colour. There are others who only pay lip service to the concept of multiculturalism, yet, they have cold feet when faced with an embarrassing situation as evidenced in the groundbreaking 1967 film Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner?

Surely, our younger generation, through better education, is not only tolerant to any pigmentation but cooperative in promoting multiculturalism in our islands.

Hopefully, mutual understanding and respect will prevail in the interest of all.



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