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United Nations of Xenophobia

The threat of the 21st century’s uncivilized people of the so-called developed countries manifests in the rising number of hate crimes committed after the two most outstanding political events of 2016.

Originally Published: 23 Feb 2017 By: Ágata F. Swiatkiewicz

Why is it happening ?

The past year, 2016, will be remembered as a year of significant political shifts that were regrettably reflected in the social environment. Globally, it started off well with the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal that meant an approximation of the West, particularly the US, towards Iran; and with Pope Francis signing an Ecumenical Declaration with Patriarch Kirill almost a thousand years after the split between the Catholic and the Russian Orthodox Churches. By the end of that year, the UK voted to exit the EU, leading to a record rise of hate-crimes in the country; and the American people elected a President whose hate speeches were heard all over the globe. Has the world reached a point in 2016 where, instead of development, it is retrograding? Are humans incapable of long-term tolerance, equality, respect, dignity, and solidarity?

Why does it matter?

In a world where one would have thought that by now, the 21st century, hate crimes, xenophobia, and racism were things of the past we see their numbers rise — knowing the consequences they led to in the past. It is indeed true: history repeats itself, and people blind themselves from the path the world is taking, country by country, particularly those who are allegedly among the most developed and that have taken the utmost advantage of the globalized world they created.

In the post-Brexit referendum, the UK saw a rising anti-foreigner sentiment together with surging numbers of hate crimes, xenophobia, and racism across the country. The Polish community was particularly affected, leading to Polish ministers visiting the country and seeking reassurance about the safety of Polish citizens living in the UK. Truth is, the Brexit campaign itself was based on an anti-European, anti-immigrant, anti-diversity rhetoric, which consequently led to a significant growth of violence among Brexit supporters. The campaign opened the doors for xenophobes and gave them a justification for their hate against foreigners. And it is people like Arkadiusz Jóźwik, a 40-year-old Polish man beaten to death by teenage boys, who are a reflection of the immediate consequences of such actions.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the situation is similar after the U.S. Presidential elections. The current President’s election campaign “unleashed a barrage of hate across the country”, according to Richard Cohen, President of SPLC, an American advocacy group fighting hate. And, it is not by the President saying “stop it” to his supporters during a CBS interview that violence will actually stop. And again, it is people like Maha Abdul Gawad, who, while shopping at a local Walmart, was told to hang herself with her hijab instead of wearing it on her head, who are a reflection of the immediate consequences of such actions.

What can you do about it?

Millennials can make a real difference — in fact, we must make a difference. This generation was born into a world where segregation was a thing of the past and racism and xenophobia should have been left behind. We can distinguish fairness from injustice, equality from discrimination, tolerance from oppression, and respect for human rights from their violation. There are indeed small things one can do to tackle or to minimise this problem. The first one is to act, whenever present in such abusive situations, whether it takes place on the bus, at the supermarket, or in the bank. If not acting directly, report the situation to local authorities. Lastly, Millennials should always seek opportunities to raise awareness in any way. Overall, make sure to remind the ones around you that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Ágata F. Swiatkiewicz briefs from Lisbon, Portugal. She is a candidate for a Master of Science in Global Cooperation and Security.


United Nations of Xenophobia was originally published in The Intelligence Brief on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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