Memorial Oct00: Party Conference Bournemouth
& Race Relations
that is biased without justification, can offend and injure fellow
citizens. Young children are introduced to racial and religious prejudice
at home, in their schools and on the playfields. Such prejudice, if not
tempered by education and good upbringing, can quickly fill the minds of
those who are idle, disadvantaged, unemployed or socially insecure. Such
people use their prejudice to offend, abuse, maim, injure and kill
in order to achieve satisfaction for themselves.
The social history of human beings has always reflected the
consequences of the evil of prejudice. Prejudice has played its part in
war, political domination and persecution of tribal groups all over the
Constantine the Great made Christianity the state religion of the
Roman Empire and the Crusaders offered the Jews the choice of baptism or
death. From 1215 to 1492 in Europe, the Jews were victimised and expelled
from England, France and Spain. They ended up in Turkey (Ottoman Empire),
the Balkans, Palestine, northern Italy and Holland. Many fled Germany to
go to Poland where they lived in ghettos.
During the 1500s there were many in Germany, including Martin
Luther, who wanted to isolate and expel the Jews. Many anti-semitic books
were published. In the 19th century Wilhelm Marr, a German, had
claimed that the Germans were a master race.
Such a history of religious intolerance, social exclusion, jingoism
and national pride in Europe had laid the seedbed of hatred for the 20th
century. The Turkish massacre of the Armenians before the First World War,
the horrific mass murder of Jews in Hitler’s Germany and ethnic
cleansing in the Balkans are some examples of the legacy of prejudice born
and bred in Europe.
European imperial powers also sowed the seeds of hatred in Africa,
Asia, America and the Middle East. Africa was carved up a hundred years
ago by the European powers without any regard to tribal lands and African
social traditions. Genocide in Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo are
consequences of such European political decisions.
In the last two years, there has been in Europe, especially in East
Germany, an alrming upsurge in extremist violence reflecting racial and
religious intolerance. It is directed against ethnic migrants, refugees,
Jews and Moslems. Increasing number of the young
- disillusioned with life without work – seem to vent their
frustration in this manner. Such behaviour is universally condemned by the
European politicians and the clergy but little is actually done to prevent
What is the European Union doing about religious and racial
prejudice? What has it learnt from its own history in general and the
holocaust in particular? Why is there a resurgence of the neo-Nazis in
Articles 6, 7 and 29 of the EU Treaty and Article 13 of the EC
Treaty clearly establish the outright opposition to and condemnation of
any kind of racism in Europe. On 21st September, 00 this year,
the European Parliament in Brussels, confirmed its opposition to racism
and xenophobia. It expressed
support for the Council of Europe’s Conference on racism to be held in
Strasbourg on the 11th of October. The European Parliament has
also urged the Council of Europe to present a common EU position at the
2001 World Conference Against Racism.
The European Monitoring Centre on Racism (EMCR) in Vienna has been
established to enable the EU to have a better understanding of the causes
and effects of racism and xenophobia. It works closely with the UNHCR, the
Council of Europe and the European Commission Against Racism (ECIR). Such
work is expected to help the EU to devise appropriate policy to prevent
and punish those guilty of racism and xenophobia.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is sad but true that religious and racial
prejudice are still deep rooted in our society. They continue to inflict
hardship, insult and death on inncoent people.
Do our politicians have the courage to tackle such prejudice? Is
there genuine support from the majority of our people? What can be done to
I believe we must do the following:-
It is time to learn the lessons from our history; it is time we
accept and promote that Europe is multicultural and multiethnic; it is
time to move from policy formulation to effective
implementation; it is time for firm action that will rid our
society of the evil of prejudice.