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Intervention of Hon. Muamer Bacevac at the Balkans Leadership Conference

November is the month of tolerance because on November 16, 1995, the UNESCO member states adopted the Declaration on the Principles of Tolerance.

The Declaration defined Tolerance as a BALANCE IN DIFFERENCES, and as a RESPONSIBILITY that encourages the development of human rights.

Tolerance is not a concession or indulgence, it means respect and appreciation of all people, different in appearance, behavior, speech, worldviews, and values.

IGNORANCE about others and others give birth to PREJUDICE, prejudice gives birth to STEREOTYPES, stereotypes give birth to FEAR, fear breeds HATE and hatred eventually results in VIOLENCE against others and those who are different.

We, in our South Slavic languages, have a beautiful word for tolerance, “trpeljivost”, which we derive from the word “strpljenje” which means patience, or to be patient and restrained in demeanor.

And what is the polar opposite to tolerance? Well, that is nationalism. Nationalism is an illness in the Balkans that has been taking its toll for centuries. Nationalism absolutely annuls tolerance, and the worst thing for a nation is that it sucks its most creative energy out of it, which must and should be the impetus for development.

Today, more than ever, we need patience and tolerance, because they precede mutual acquaintance and understanding, and with it, solidarity and prosperity.

Serbia, as a multiethnic and multi confessional state, where minority peoples make up almost a quarter of the population, with its laws, and with its constitution, strives to provide and preserve the specifics of national minorities and their heritage, especially in the field of culture and language.

This year, the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia instituted two important legal dispositions important for expanding protections and preserving tolerance and acceptance, namely the adoption of the Law on Gender Equality, and the modernization and improvement of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination and also strengthened the independent state institutions with new and improved legislation.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time of pandemic and humanity is not only the victim of a pandemic, but also its cause. An irresponsible attitude towards the nature that surrounds us takes its toll, not only affecting our health, but also leading to new divisions and intolerance among people.

That is why I believe that the topics of today's conference and the panels that will discuss these issues are very well chosen and that they represent key challenges in the modern world when it comes to striving to build a tolerant society.

I am a man of faith and one of the most common prayers in my mother tongue is one that is dear to me:

(Gospodaru moj kada se ogriješim o ljude podari mi snagu izvinjenja,

a kada se ljudi ogriješe o mene podari mi snagu oprosta.

Nači me da je tolerancija najviši stupanj moći a želja za osvetom prvi znak slabosti.

Rough translation: My Lord, when I sin against men, grant me the power of apology, and when people sin against me, give me the power of forgiveness. Let me understand that tolerance is the highest degree of power and the desire for revenge is the first sign of weakness.)

I want to end my speech with an optimistic reminder that, after the great catastrophes in the history of humankind, periods of development followed, a renaissance followed the pandemic plague in the Dark Middle Ages, which announced industrialization and revival in all fields. I believe that humanity will find a way to overcome this pandemic and enter a new golden period with exceptional care bot only for interpersonal relations, but also for the ecosystem that is dying out.

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