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Declaration against xenophobia signed by 15 prominent figures in Czech town of Liberec

7.9.2017 10:43
The Romani flag was flown on 7 April 2017 on the building of the Liberec Regional Authority ahead of International Romani Day, which falls on 8 April. (PHOTO:  Liberec Regional Authority)
The Romani flag was flown on 7 April 2017 on the building of the Liberec Regional Authority ahead of International Romani Day, which falls on 8 April. (PHOTO: Liberec Regional Authority)

On 1 September in Liberec, Czech Republic, the signatories of a statement against disseminating fear of difference and against xenophobia held a press conference to publicize their call to action. The statement criticizes Czech President Zeman and political parties traditionally considered democratic.

The text was signed by 15 figures from various professions and walks of life, according to the Deputy Mayor of Liberec responsible for social affairs, Ivan Langr. He said others may sign the declaration as well online.

The signatories warn that the dissemination of hostility, especially against members of minorities who are visually different, is gradually becoming one of the important topics of the political competition for votes in the runup to the October elections. "We consider it alarming that no warning voice has been heard from the traditionally democratic parties against this virus during the election campaigns, nor from the mouths of our high constitutional officers, including the President. What is more, their spectacular silence, or even their tacit consent - which may be based in a concern that they could lose favor with voters - just legitimizes these growing displays of extremism, supporting them and slowly making them the norm," the text reads.

The signatories include two former advisors to the late Czech President Václav Havel, architect Miroslav Masák and educator Jan Šolc. The declaration was also signed by the director of the Liberec Theater, Jarmila Levko, the director of the Liberec Zoo, David Nejedlo, the autor Jaroslav Rudiš and the rapper Paulie Garand.

Full translation of the Liberec Declaration

Call against xenophobia and the dissemination of fear of difference

The shadow of xenophobia, of disseminating fear, and of growing violence toward all who just slightly deviate from so-called mainstream thinking is having more and more of an impact on us here in the Czech basin. The public space, especially online social networks, is witnessing disturbing verbal displays of hatred, intolerance, and prejudice practically each and every day that, to a greater or lesser degree, find themselves reflected in the extreme behavior of groups and individuals in the real world.

Is it possible to continue to remain unmoved in a situation where a swimmer wearing culturally different swimwear sparks hysteria that verges on hatred? When a politician publicly incites the intentional police harassment of tourists with a different skin color?

What about the situation in which a woman who wears a veil becomes the victim of physical assault just because of her beliefs? Or when many online social network users share a video en masse of a father teaching his child to use violence against Muslims or Romani people?

Can we remain unmoved in situations when repugnance over difference is being cloaked behind statements of objection to inadaptability? Difference and inadaptability are not the same thing.

The dissemination of hostility, especially against members of minorities who are visually different, is gradually becoming one of the important topics of the political competition for votes. We consider it alarming that no warning voice has been heard from the traditionally democratic parties against this virus during the election campaigns, nor from the mouths of our high constitutional officers, including the President.

What is more, their spectacular silence, or even their tacit consent - which may be based in a concern that they could lose favor with voters - just legitimizes these growing displays of extremism, supporting them and slowly making them the norm. What is extreme is no longer considered extreme.

That can be pernicious for our society and its direction. History offers us an example and a lesson that such a hunting down of difference can ultimately lead to the mechanized mass production of the dead.

Czech society, more than anything else in its past, has been responsible for positively forming the ideals of humanitarianism and of humanity as expressed by Masaryk, Čapek and Havel. We espouse their legacy with pride, and in their spirit we are calling for respect for the principle of diversity leading to our mutual enrichment.

We believe in a country where people naturally tolerate different skin colors, places of origin, beliefs and cultures; where a superficial label is never more important than the actual character of a person; where even negative experiences with a particular individual cannot grow into hatred of the entire group the individual belongs to; where the same opportunities in education or employment must be guaranteed to all without exception. We are calling on all citizens, mainly those who are culturally, politically and socially active, to be attentive to displays of extremism and hatred, not to be indifferent to them, not to be afraid to object, visibly and vocally, to such displays anywhere they appear.

Citizens should raise their voices right now, when the spectre of xenophobia in Czech society can still be considered fleeting and temporary. In the interest of respect for differences of all kinds and for the members of minorities, citizens should not succumb to the would-be fad of clashing over so-called political incorrectness and excusing those clashes as freedom of speech, as they are actually just a pretext for stirring up a dangerous hatred of our fellow human beings, dangerous passions.

There is just one society here, and each of us is an integral, irreplaceable component of it. We are all equally at home here.

Liberec, Czech Republic, 31 August 2017

This call was published on the occasion of the sixth annual Liberec Festival of Foreign Nationals and National Minorities - One City for All. You can express your agreement with this call at www.protixenofobii.cz.

Signed (in alphabetical order):

Jan Cverčko, Association of Romani Representatives of Liberec Region (Asociace romských představitelů Libereckého kraje)

Tomáš Dianiška, actor, director and playwright Michael Dufek, director, Contact Community Center (Komunitní středisko Kontakt)

Martin Fryč, bookseller, owner of the new and used bookstore Fryč s.r.o.

Paulie Garand, music producer and rapper

Michal Hron, chair, Jewish Community of Liberec (Židovská obec Liberec)

Ivan Langr, Deputy Mayor of Liberec

Jarmila Levko, director, F. X. Šalda Theater (Divadlo F. X. Šaldy)

David Lukáš, head of the Department of Nonwoven Textiles and Nanofibrous Materials of the FT TUL, rector of the Technical University of Liberec (1997 – 2003)

Miroslav Masák, architect, educator, former advisor to President Václav Havel

Seiji Nakagoshi, Director-General of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Czech Republic, President of DENSO Manufacturing Czech (2001 – 2005)

David Nejedlo, director, Liberec Zoo

Jaroslav Rudiš, author

Jan Šolc, educator, former advisor to President Václav Havel, co-founder of the Ethics Forum of the Czech Republic (Etické forum ČR)

Petr Vondřich, blogger, editor-in-chief of the Jizerské *ticho online magazine

ČTK, Adéla Gálová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Liberec, Osobnosti, Prohlášení, Xenophobia



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