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Evarist Bartolo

Great things can happen

We still live in a country where inequality exists. We still live in a country where racism, in different shapes and forms, is widespread

evarist_bartolo
Evarist Bartolo
19 July 2017, 7:30am
It is time to continue working even harder for a more humane Malta. We still live in a country where inequality exists. We still live in a country where racism, in different shapes and forms, is widespread. These are the next chapters that are waiting to be re-written
It is time to continue working even harder for a more humane Malta. We still live in a country where inequality exists. We still live in a country where racism, in different shapes and forms, is widespread. These are the next chapters that are waiting to be re-written
We live in a time of unbelievable change. The scenes of love and unity witnessed on Wednesday have enshrined our nation as a freer and more accepting place to live.

The changes in civil rights have made possible the reshaping of our minds into how we look at people. Some who were, are no longer nameless shadows, but human beings. Our country has been through many changes. The react-and-adapt spirit is in us – our country’s history is full of episodes where we just had to bow to the fact that our future does not depend on us.

However we are living through extraordinary times where our future is written by us, and nobody else. We’ve done a good job until now. The change in law is now effective, but we must continue to work hard to make sure our society remains an inclusive one. In every generation, we run the risk that we take a step backwards. But this is indeed a time to be an optimist in this regard – we are witnessing the evolution of our country.

This is not the end. What the LGBTIQ+ community achieved over the past decades was done through mobilisation of people and ideas, paired with sheer effort and hard work. Through conviction not imposition. It is time to continue working even harder for a more humane Malta. We still live in a country where inequality exists. We still live in a country where racism, in different shapes and forms, is widespread. These are the next chapters that are waiting to be re-written. Just as we, as a country, have come to openly embrace people with diverse sexualities, we have also to work to embrace people with different backgrounds, different religions and different nationalities.

This is much harder – the laws are already there. Racism is illegal. However the change that needs to happen goes beyond that because racism is not just far-right people shouting offensive remarks. Racism is not not sitting next to someone. It’s not not allowing your child to play with a school friend. It’s preferring to live or work next to someone instead of another person because of their race. These things hurt more than the far-right nonsense because they are done by everyday people. People who are just like you and me. People who should know better.

Nothing devalues a human being more than treating him or her as a shadow, rather than a human being. The biggest shames of mankind happened when we de-humanized individuals. In different ways, it still happens today. The source of this is often ignorance. When you hear the stories of these families, especially the recent ones of Syrians leaving their war-torn villages, people will understand the human side. I often meet children from Syria, and other countries, in school visits. Most of them are very young. You see that they are going through a process of adaptation and you sort of understand that these young children have been through a lot. What we have seen on television, they have witnessed with their innocent eyes. This gives you more determination to continue working hard. 

We have to continue to explain – as I said before, this works only through conviction and not imposition. Rather than expanding our divisions, we ought to work to expand what unites us. I think the Church can do a lot of good here, as it follows the examples of Pope Francis in reaching out to the most forgotten in our socities.  

So as we celebrate the achievements, let us also acknowledge where we have not arrived yet. Let us use this as an example that people can change. That Malta is ready to change and move forward. That opinion and cultures can change and that when we come together to celebrate the beauty of our humanity, and reject the dehumanisation of individuals, great things can happen.

Evarist Bartolo is minister for education and employment