VII ASEM Interfaith
Manila 13 y 14 de octubre de 2011
Harnessing the benefits and addressing the challenges of migration through interfaith and intercultural dialogue
Carlos Garcia de Andoin
Deputy Chief of Cabinet
Minister of the Presidency
Honorable Rosalinda D. Baldoz, Secretary, Department of Labor and Employment of the Philippines,
Honorable Esko Hamilo, Undersecretary of State of Finland,
Distinguished fellow speakers and Representatives of ASEM Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Spanish government, I would like to express my gratitude to the Government of Philippines for hosting this important conference in Manila.
1. Globalisation and the acceleration of migratory movements
It might seem that migratory movements are a brand new and specific outcome of globalisation. However, a more cautious study reveals that they have been a constant from the very beginning of humanity. Human beings are migrants.
It could also be stated that those movements are the outcome of multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious societies. Nevertheless, a brief review over the history of civilisations shows they have been a constant in continents and civilisations. In Spain, three cultures lived together between the 12th and the 14th centuries: Muslims, Jews and Christians.
Having said that, there must be something special if these questions still give rise to interest here and there. There are three novelties: its acceleration, its own globalization and its specific impact.
2. The need of migrations against the return of intolerance
I speak from a European perspective. The report of the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe chaired by Felipe Gonzalez, former Prime Minister of Spain, and submitted to the European Council on May 2010 holds that Europe must be an “attractive destination for migrants”. Given the current birth rate, a net increase of 100 million migrants for 2050 will be needed. Otherwise the ageing of population and the contraction of workforce will turn into an unbearable pressure on pension systems, healthcare and social protection schemes and a bad prospect for economic growth and taxation.
In short, with no migratory movements the European Welfare State will go bankrupt. Migration is therefore a social and economic need.
So a migratory policy should be implemented in advance. Europe will be an attractive destination if migrants feel they are accepted, if they can enter the legal labour market, if they enjoy equal standards of social rights and education and provided that strong policies against discrimination are implemented.
However, reality does not fit that perspective. 40 million migrant are living today in the European Union (out of 495 million, an 8.8%). Just the half we need for 2050!
But, instead of considering migration as an opportunity in Europe, intolerance and discrimination reappear: people opposition to massive immigration is growing; discrimination and inequality at work galore, the extension of social rights to migrants is broadly rejected, immigration laws are harder and the economic crisis is fueling the electoral support of populist and xenophobic parties. The integration of migrants in the most of European countries is not working well enough.
3. The new political controversy of cultural and religious diversity
The secular theories of modernization announced the privatization of religion. Yet, globalization has loudly put religion in public life. Migration has been one of the reasons.
In Europe, an intense debate is on the table: the construction of mosques with or without minarets; the use of hiyab, niqab and burqa in public spaces; whether the cartoons on Mohammed are offensive to religion or linked to freedom of speech; polygamy; the right of a halal meal at school; also, the Muslim extremism…
But the debate on politics and religion is broader: abortion, decent death, gay marriage, offensive images of Christ and the Virgin or the presence of Christian symbols in public institutions.
Religion is considered in these debates as a danger for freedom of speech, gender equality, tolerance or human rights. On the other side, religions see the society changes as individualism materialist and values relativism. I think that religion has risks and she can be manipulated, but in my opinion the human religious experience is good for the world and for each person, particularly in our topic, to give meaning and assistance to migrants.
In the past religion was linked to society: Christianity to Europe and Islam to Arabic Countries. Today, the practice of a religion in Europe, Christians by tradition and Muslims by immigration, is more and more an element of identity and membership separated from the most of society. More and more Christians or Muslims consider their religion as their primary duty and adherence, more relevant than common law and citizenship, in a normative view.
However, that gap is not a desertion from society. On the contrary, in the case of Christianity there is a struggle to keep it as an essential part of Europe’s identity, of its society and politics. As Islam is concerned, it struggles to do the same and rejects to be simply recognized or tolerated in Europe.
To sum up, the novelty goes beyond diversity: is the tense relationship between religion identities and the society and how religions want to move away from society, but at the same time, they want to be part of it
4. A new culture of living together
Cultural and religious diversity changes have an impact on politics. The configuration of modern states has been frequently performed on a high degree of identity between religious affiliation and nationality. The historical definition of a country has required a level of cultural, ethnic and religious homogeneity. Religion provides national identity and cohesion, background and tradition too. This identification concerns also an idea of citizenship. It is not a trivial matter. It affects the fundaments that make up a country.
But it is not the right way today. Diversity is Europe´s destiny and of mankind. Then we are to face a very important issue: how to build social, cultural and political cohesion from the diversity, how to build one idea of common citizenship in our democracies and how to avoid the fall toward extremism because it threatens gender equality, individual rights and democracy.
In the summer of 2010, the Council of Europe asked an independent Group of Eminent Persons to prepare a report on the challenges arising from the re-emergence of intolerance and discrimination in Europe. The report is named “Living together. Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe.”
European societies need to embrace diversity, but this can only works –the report said-:
“If all long-term residents are accepted as citizens and if all, whatever their faith, culture or ethnicity, are treated equally by the law, the authorities and their fellow citizens”.
Therefore, the challenge is how to address the differences in an equality way.
On the one hand, it is necessary not only to promote tolerance towards religious minorities but also cultural, economic and political inclusion policies, particularly on education. In this field, in a comprehensive migration policy, religion cannot be silenced as a private issue. Right of religion must be accepted legal and factual way. It is, at first time, an individual freedom but also including its public, common and cultural dimension. Finally, the principle of non-discrimination, on grounds of religion or belief, must be implemented from the side of public authorities by the way of public management of religious diversity.
On the other hand, it needs the centrality and more inclusive idea of citizenship. We do not want a society split in many communities or parallel societies. It is essential to guarantee Constitutional framework and values and the equal law for all. In addition, the intercultural view: the horizontal construction trough dialogue of a common public space in values, norms, traditions and symbols. This task includes zero tolerance to xenophobia, violence and political extremism.
5. Different beliefs, equal citizens
Migration can be a big opportunity for universal respect for human rights. The first condition is to recognise in each migrant a human being. This is a common view for all religions. All of them must fight against stereotypes and prejudices. It is not well the silence.
The second condition to make possible the combination “different beliefs, equal citizens” is the separation between State and confession. The identification between belief and national citizenship limits freedom of worship; condemns the believer of another religion or non-believer to a second-class citizenship or to national apostasy; finally it provides social conflict and violence. The separation is condition to living all together in the same and only one State.
The third assumption is the idea of identity conflicts cannot be eliminated. They stay and persist. Assimilation is never the solution, but neither “laissez faire, laissez passer”. The challenge is to manage the cultural, religious and ethnic identity diversity increasing, at the same time, social cohesion and harmony.
We have to learn to live together.
It is not easy, but it is fair, right and challenging.