If five Muslims destroy our culture, our democracy is worthless

Michael Roestler

I agree with the statement of Mitre Georgiev from the Croatian "Welcome" initiative that the world now experiences the crisis of solidarity.

We have the experience of our work in different countries, particularly in Switzerland and France. This experience shows that miracles may happen if the conditions for direct contact between the foreigners and the local population are created. Xenophobia, based on fear, is mostly supported by the government’s narrative. Their goal is to prevent people from meeting refugees so that they stay separately from each other. They usually accommodate the migrants in camps and make the solidarity, coming directly from the people, impossible.

Currently, thousands of people are trying to get to Europe. The similar waves of refugees happened earlier as well. For example, Switzerland with no problems welcomed 12,000 people from Hungary after the revolution attempt in 1956. The country also accepted refugees from the former Czechoslovakia after 1968. They were accepted very kindly because there were a lot of qualified people.

However, completely different situation was observed with the refugees from Chile (Latin America) in 1973-1974. Then there was the Cold War, and the Swiss government said: "No, we do not want the Communists." Tens of thousands of people were imprisoned and tortured in Chile in those days. We said then: "If the Swiss government does not want to accept them, then we want to."

We addressed the communities and religious groups with the request to accept five refugees from Chile each. We got thousands of positive responses. We did that in quite an illegal way as we brought the refugees against the will of the government.

Then the conservative right-wing forces said that those Communists would destroy our democracy. In turn, the mayor of one of the villages near Basel, where about 200 people lived, answered: "We accepted five refugees. If they are able to destroy our democracy, then our democracy is worthless."

If five Muslims can destroy our culture and faith today, then our democracy is also worthless.

I have met refugees in Hungary and Austria, who are seeking for the shelter now. We are always said that it's kind of a different culture. But Switzerland also did not know who the Tamuls were when the wave of migration began. Then there was a great panic, the colored people with another religion arrived. However, nobody in Switzerland speaks about them now because they are the same as the rest. They have their own culture, and it bothers nobody.

Of course, the integration of the refugees is easier in richer countries, but when we see the refugees in Greece or in other countries, the sympathy arises. Solidarity is a natural feeling. We see the great solidarity everywhere.

Speech delivered by Michael Roestler, representative of the European Public Forum, during the discussion at the DocudaysUA documentary film festival

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