Peace, Refugee Stories, Social Issues

Belgian “sorry” is not enough for the Congolese

By Nadia Nsayi
Pax Christi Flanders

In an interim report calls a working group of the UN around people of African descent in Belgium the Belgian State on to to express apologies for the atrocities committed during the colonization. Policy Officer Nadia Nsayi goes into a title expands on the content of the report.

This week a working group of the United Nations shared a preliminary report and recommendations on the human rights situation of people of African descent in Belgium (Afro-Belgians). The findings of the group confirm what we already read in previous studies such as the study of the King Baudouin Foundation from 2017: structural racism and discrimination prevent full participation of African Belgians in our society. The report shows what opinion makers have said for quite a while: there is a link between Belgium’s colonial past in Africa and the contemporary racism against people of African descent in Belgium.

The Belgian colonialism in Congo was a cocktail of imperialism–the urge for overseas territories to dominate–and capitalism—the profitable exploitation of raw materials and local forced labourers. This economic project was promoted as a ‘humanitarian mission’ of civilization that was based on a racist ideology of white superiority and black inferiority. The suppression of the Congolese lasted 75 years. The legacy of that colonization is still visible today, but also felt by surviving relatives.

Colonial life ideas and complexes. According to studies, Afro-Belgians, the largest group coming from the ex-colony Congo, face structural discrimination in education, in the labour market and on the rental market. This does not mean that all white Belgians are racists, or that all Afro-Belgians have no chance. But it expresses the fact that people in our country with black skin too often face unequal opportunities compared to their white fellow human beings. This is not acceptable.

I find it distressing to see that racism and discrimination continue to ruin our society. Since the visit of the UN group in 2005, there are fortunately also steps which have been put forward, though those are too small. However, I am hopeful. Local politicians and ordinary citizens take joint initiatives to look at our colonial past straight in the eye. They choose together a future with more mutual understanding and respect…

Read more by clicking here.

Peace, Social Issues

Racism and international relations

by Benjamin Peltier

The angle with which racism is approached is always that of discrimination in our societies. Yet racism as a (often unconscious) thought system impacts our reading of reality in many other areas.

This analysis will try to explain how racist representations here in the West impact the reading of the world and the conflicts that cross it. This could have been tackled from several types of racism: how, for example, anti-Black racism makes us relatively insensitive to the incredible violence that has been agitating eastern Congo for years. But this analysis will focus instead on the consequences of our Islamophobia in our apprehension of certain conflicts and reading international issues.

In mid-August, the UN released a report claiming that the People’s Republic of China detained more than one million Uighurs in detention in “re-education” camps [1] . This imprisonment in the absence of any charge is part of a “counter-terrorism” action of China. Uyghurs are a Muslim minority in western China. Their desire for autonomy has always made it a target of repression for Beijing. That this mass imprisonment during which they / they suffer blows, violence and torture, does not arouse any reaction in Europe is at least challenging. This event is unparalleled in the world and in recent history.

At the same time, the UN always used the frigging term “genocide” [2] to evoke the actions of Burmese power vis-à-vis its Muslim minority, the Rohingya. This Muslim minority in Burma is subjected to systematic violence by the military regime: 700,000 Rohingya [3] were expelled abroad while another 10,000 were massacred. Their villages and fields were destroyed and the return was forbidden. Again this was done in a relative inaction of Westerners and their public opinion…

Read this entire article on BePax’s website in French.

Peace, Refugee Stories, Social Issues

Is migration the “mother of all problems”?

By Fr. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

Europe is now home to people from all over the world. In most European countries, we see the increase of rejection of new foreign citizens in Western society. Anti-migration sentiments are growing. In the south and east negative attitudes prevailed. In Italy for instance, one in every two persons perceive migration as a problem. Several European countries have built fences and barriers at their borders playing on people’s fear of foreign threats and focusing on the dangers from immigration of terrorism.  Recent elections in different EU states demonstrate that concerns surrounding migration and asylum continue to dominate the public space, shape national, and EU politics. Extremist (right wing) political parties are winning votes massively.

Migration remains the biggest challenge and is a debatable issue both in public opinion as well as in politics. Is this question the mother of all problems? Negative perceptions of “outsiders” have caused divisions not just between countries, but also within communities, political parties, the media, at street level, even within families. This topic will make a big difference in the next EU elections in May 2019.

Unhappiness characterizes modern man. Many people experience living in a chaotic world. Fear of innovation is the result of this. Determining or confronting other customs and cultures gives rise to resistance, even hatred and racism. Because the “stranger” is now also visible in the small cities and municipalities, the fear of migration is growing. It all became so unexpectedly and chaotic, loss of political control. Emotions are put to the test. Hosting in my neighbourhood refugees of different cultural and religious backgrounds is a sensitive issue. The fact that refugees/migrants want to go to places where they are among themselves is understandable but that does not help the integration. Ghettos should be prevented.

Some politicians use the rhetoric of keeping and “kicking migrants out.” That can result in criminalising these people. Even Prime Ministers or Presidents of EU member states use xenophobic rhetoric and hate speech against migrants and refugees. That behaviour is observable within authoritarian populist leaderships in Europe. The microphone of xenophobia is often the megaphone of a loud minority.

Migration is not going to stop

We cannot and must no longer withdraw ourselves from the needs in the rest of the world. Due to the expansion of the EU some years ago, we see economic migration from Central and Eastern European countries in the direction of Western Europe. There is also the economic migration from former Soviet Republics into Eastern and Central European countries as well as negative attitudes toward Middle Eastern (Muslim) refugees recently arrived in many European states. Refugees will continue to turn up in the EU because it is the only haven within reach for dozens of conflict areas.

Accepting the other and integration of new people is not an easy thing to do. That asks specific programmes, budgets and especially the political will to implement or apply values and standards not at least the principles of democracy and human rights, including the rights of minorities. Political will includes also recognising the concerns of ordinary people. We cannot underestimate that. Two obligations should come first: care for the welfare of the own population within the borders and care for victims of violence both within and outside our borders.

Fear of the Other

Since some time a culture of fear has been created. Behind the fear of migrants lies in many cases the fear of the unknown. We speak also about the fear of the Other, which stems from the fear of the Self. The Self that goes through an identity crisis feels vulnerable vis-à-vis the Other. Are we afraid of the other? Fear is also about change. When change looks out of control, it stirs social tension and political polarization.

The EU should develop some robust collective instruments to deal with migration challenges. With no clear public action in sight, fear remains and the populist wave can grow. Public action includes burden sharing and ways of solidarity. Our priority of concern must go to the thousands of women and children who are the most vulnerable groups in the communities. Young refugees, minors, often end up in criminal networks, prostitution and child labour.

The immigration issue is a huge challenge. As said that needs political will and especially the recognition that the world has significantly changed and our principles must be applied in different ways. The aim should be a sensible, pragmatic and compassionate migration policy. The question is how to best manage migration and coordinate on an international level. There is no purely European or purely national way to solve to this challenge: a mix of these and integration can be the only effective solution. That needs dialogue!

A human and Christian approach

The common basis for our thinking and attitudes is the conviction that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights and equally to be respected and protected. Every person has the same right to be respected, whatever his origin. Because of this, we are called by God to resist evil, to act justly, and pursue peace to transform the world. Evil can be seen in attitudes of exclusion, marginalisation, hate speech, racism, stigmatization and criminalization of migrants and refugees.

The drivers of (forced) displacement and migration are extreme poverty, food insecurity, lack of opportunity, climate change and insecurity. Religious extremism is often the breeding ground for terror, violence and fear. Respect is required for the rights of all people on the move, regardless of their status. The West has a moral obligation to help those fleeing violence and persecution.

Racism is a sin. Rejecting the “other” is a threat to our Christian identity. People of faith must condemn racism because it denies human dignity and the mutual belonging to the one human family and defaces the image of God in every human being. All media and public opinion makers should stop to dehumanise the other.

Xenophobia or “fear of the foreigner” must be converted into understanding, meeting and possible cooperation. Assistance in emergencies and for survival should not be denied.

The Gospel is calling the faithful to welcome the stranger as an act of love inspired by faith (Matthew 25:35-40). Jesus Christ identifies himself with the stranger. Based upon the principles of our Christian faith and the example of Jesus Christ, we should raise a narrative of love and hope, against the populist narrative of hate and fear. Every human being is worthy of respect and protection. Matthew 7:12 should inspire us: “do to others what you would have them do to you.” That is a golden rule! Our duties to the “others” includes welcoming, protecting, offer hospitality and to integrate.

Integration of refugees or migrants often involves abuse of power and often ends in new forms of slavery and unfair competition on the labour market. Only an inclusive approach that considers all dimensions of the human being and calls for the participation of each one in society can effectively fight against discrimination and exclusion.

Churches are important actors in civil society and political life. Their role as conscience-keeper should be fully assumed. A culture of encounter and dialogue should be promoted. We should recognize God in the faces of the other, the stranger and migrant.

Peace, Social Issues

Des fleurs aux « nègres » inconnus

par: Pauline Thirifays

« On ne peut pas changer tout ce qu’on affronte, mais rien ne peut changer tant qu’on ne l’affronte pas. L’Histoire n’est pas le passé, c’est le Présent. Nous portons notre histoire avec nous. Nous sommes notre histoire. » JAMES BALDWIN

Malaise d’une épiphanie

Cela se passe à Lisbonne – à Belém plus exactement – dans le Jardim do Ultramar. Le jardin d’Outremer a été créé au début du siècle dernier. Ses sept hectares sont plantés d’espèces exotiques très rares, africaines et asiatiques. On s’y rend pour l’époustouflante allée de palmiers, pour son lac, pour le jardin japonais caché. On y admire les essences tropicales provenant des anciennes colonies. On s’y rend après la visite du monument aux découvertes (le Padrão dos Descobrimentos), proue de bateau immaculée sur l’embouchure du Tage, pointant les horizons merveilleux que ses héros ouvrirent pour le Portugal et l’Europe en partant depuis ce point à la conquête d’un monde qui leur appartenait forcément. On ne peut le regarder, superbe de blancheur et de promesses, que gonflé de quelque chose qui ressemble à l’orgueil des fils d’aventuriers. On oublie souvent que ce monument fut construit en 1941 sous la dictature du nationaliste Salazar et qu’on ne peut en ignorer le dessein…

Ils sont deux. Au milieu des touristes qui déambulent dans le jardin d’Outremer, plus personne ne les voit. Ils sont des espèces exotiques parmi des espèces exotiques. Des spécimens, pas des personnes. Ils ne sont pas là pour eux-mêmes mais pour représenter leur espèce. C’est le sommet de l’essentialisation. D’ailleurs, ils n’ont pas de nom. Il y a un homme et une femme semble-t-il. Privés de leur corps, ils offrent aux passants la typicité de leurs traits que l’on appelait naguère dans tous les manuels scolaires « négroïdes ».

Je les ai pris en photo. J’en ai fait deux portraits en gros plan. Je crois que j’avais envie de les photographier comme des gens et pas comme des objets. Je crois que ce socle nu sous leurs têtes, vide de toute plaque, qui ne leur offrait même pas une identité avait quelque chose d’obscène que j’ai voulu réparer…

Lire la suite en cliquant ici.


Peace, Social Issues

Y-a-t-il un racisme institutionnel au Luxembourg ? Plaidoyer pour un antiracisme politique luxembourgeois

par: Sandrine Gashonga

Les étés 2016 et 2017 ont scellé une rupture initiée de longue date dans les mouvements antiracistes français, entre défenseurs d’un universalisme républicain d’un côté, et partisans d’un multiculturalisme à l’anglo-saxonne de l’autre. Deux polémiques vont finir par définitivement polariser les associations, avec des conséquences bien plus importantes que la division qui existait déjà au sujet des pratiques de discrimination positive.

Tout d’abord, il y a l’organisation d’un « camp d’été décolonial » en août 2016 par deux militantes antiracistes. Au programme, des formations, ateliers et tables rondes conçues afin de “construire des résistances”, allant de la “lutte anti-négrophobie” au “féminisme décolonial” en passant par la désobéissance civile. Ensuite, il y aura Nyansapo, le premier festival afroféministe européen organisé par le collectif Mwasi au mois de juillet 2017, que la maire de Paris Anna Hidalgo avait d’abord tenté d’interdire avant de finalement trouver un compromis avec La Générale, la coopérative qui prêtait ses locaux pour l’occasion.

Le point commun entre ces événements, outre le fait d’être tous deux portés par des militantes antiracistes, c’est la mise en œuvre de la non-mixité comme outil d’émancipation et d’éducation populaire. Ce choix polémique va opposer les organisations historiques telles que SOS Racisme, la LICRA (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme) et le MRAP (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples), à des mouvements plus jeunes comme le CRAN (Conseil représentatif des associations noires de France), LIR (Les Indigènes de la République), ou le Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en France. Face au tollé, il était alors devenu indispensable pour les militants d’expliquer le principe et la raison d’être de la non-mixité, une pratique née au sein des mouvements féministes américains dans les années 1970, mais que certains ont découvert avec la médiatisation de ces évènements inédits en France. La non-mixité, concrètement, c’est le fait de créer des espaces de théorisation et de réflexion sur une forme d’oppression particulière, ouverts uniquement aux personnes qui la subissent. Pour les mouvements antiracistes et féministes qui la pratiquent, le choix de la non-mixité repose sur deux présupposés très simples….

Lire la suite en cliquant ici.