Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
My name is Lica de Guzman, I am 14 years old and I was requested to be part of this model UN inter-religious council for the youth to speak on behalf of the Christian faith.
Let me start by quoting a passage from the Holy Bible which says (quote), “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (unquote)--Galatians 3:28.
I understand that the major question we are asked here today is- Has multiculturalism been a failure?? For young people like me, this concept of multiculturalism is quite a difficult and complex subject. I heard that some of our European leaders have already declared that multiculturalism has failed.
However, is it multiculturalism that has failed us or, to put the question in a more proper perspective, have we failed multiculturalism?
As both my parents are migrant domestic workers from the Philippines, I was born and grew up in a foreign land. Geneva is a model of one of the most multi-culturally diverse societies. In the public school that I go to, perhaps 6 out of 10 kids come from different countries. We interact everyday in our classrooms, we learn and play together and so far we have discovered to overcome our cultural diversities through mutual respect and tolerance.
Because the schools are also used as voting places, my schoolmates and I also get to see the posters of political parties. Some of these posters really horrify me as it blatantly sow hatred and prejudice, I think the people here at the UN call it xenophobia and islamophobia. There was this poster which featured a black sheep being kicked out of Switzerland by a group of white sheep. Then there was this poster of a multitude of black dirty hands grabbing a Swiss passport, and lately, one that really terrified my schoolmate, Aaeesha,- one featuring a Muslim woman in chador surrounded by minaret towers that resemble missiles. I really wish that they would not allow these kind of hate propaganda.
Last weekend, I had a discussion with other teenagers of my age bracket. These are youngsters who were either born in Switzerland or was brought here by their parents at a tender age. Some were sons and daughters of Filipino mothers and Swiss fathers. All of us had one thing in common, we all grew up and went to school in Geneva. Unaninmously, we all share the same point of view based on our experiences in our daily lives. That is-- Multiculturalism is alive and well in
Geneva and we, specially the young ones, have proven that it is possible to live among diverse cultures peacefully.
Pope Benedict in his message to mark the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Migrants and Refugees last January, said there should be "one family of brothers and sisters in societies that are becoming ever more multi-ethnic and intercultural". Archbishop Antonio Veglio, head of the Vatican's migration commission, told a news conference that it would be "ideal" if every government had a policy of "integration, of multiculturalism, a positive approach to immigrants... which is missing at the moment".
Mr. President, I firmly believe that a multicultural society and the respect and solidarity it is built on are a cause for pride. We must not turn the tide back to the days when it was acceptable, through ignorance and fear, for people with a different religion, culture or skin colour to be scapegoated and treated as inferior or outsiders, and their human rights trampled upon.
I call on the United Nations and its member states, all non-governmental organisations and world religions to reinforce its commitment to multiculturalism at the heart of the global fight against discrimination and xenophobia. Let us reject any moves that will discredit, undermine and destroy multiculturalism.
Lastly, let us remember the 87 youths who were gunned down in Uthaya, Norway.
This horrendous massacre serves as a grave reminder of the dangers posed by racism, hatred, and intolerance. We trust that the UN’s determination to fight xenophobia and its resultant disregard for equal human rights will be further strengthened.
Thank you Mr President.
Lica de Guzman (Switzerland)