“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference”

When Malta emerged as a sanctuary for Jewish refugees and others fleeing persecution.

“During the darkest hours of World War II, whilst significant parts of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) region were dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust, Malta emerged as a sanctuary for Jewish refugees and others fleeing persecution.”

Such were the words of Malta’s Foreign Minister Ian Borg at the start of a conference on addressing anti-semitism in the OSCE Region. Borg shared a chapter from Maltese history during World War II, when Malta provided sanctuary to Jewish refugees, showcasing the potential for interfaith understanding and cooperation.

Malta served as a temporary refuge or transit point for a limited number of these refugees and internees. Given the archipelago’s location between Europe and North Africa, some Jews fleeing persecution managed to reach Malta or were brought here, often before finding their way to safer destinations or to participate in the fight against the Axis powers. Malta’s own struggle for survival under siege makes this time in history very particular for this tiny island.

Fast forward to the 21st century, Malta is chairing the OSCE, which is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organisation. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections. The OSCE region encompasses 57 participating States in North America, Europe, and Asia, covering a vast geographical area from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

Minister Ian Borg is currently serving as the Chairperson-in-Office (CiO), and his speech during a conference on combating anti-semitism served to kick off discussions on an international level.

Confronting anti-semitism

Minister Ian Borg opened the conference emphasising the critical need to combat anti-semitism, which he described as a pervasive form of intolerance and discrimination. He highlighted the shared commitment among attendees to uphold the OSCE’s principles of equality, tolerance, non-discrimination, and respect for all individuals.

20th anniversary of the Berlin Declaration

Borg noted that this year marks two decades since the Berlin Declaration, in which OSCE states recognised the threat of anti-semitism to regional security and stability and committed to developing measures to counteract this prejudice.

Persistent threat of discrimination

The minister addressed the ongoing issues of anti-semitism, religious intolerance, and xenophobia, stressing their threat to the fabric of shared humanity and the well-being of societies.

Impact of global conflicts

Borg referenced recent conflicts, including attacks by Hamas in Israel, as reminders of how violence exacerbates the issues of peace and security in the OSCE region and beyond.

Call for solidarity and action

Emphasising the need for solidarity, Borg called for proactive measures beyond condemnation to combat discrimination and intolerance. He underscored the importance of education in fostering a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect.

“We cannot, and must not, turn a blind eye to acts and attitudes that poison hearts and minds, divide communities, and undermine the principles of coexistence and harmony. We must stand together in solidarity to root out this evil wherever it exists, – in offices of power, on the streets, in the digital world, or in our homes.” – Ian Borg

Commitment to tolerance and peaceful coexistence

The speech concluded with a reaffirmation of the commitment to building bridges across different faiths and cultures, aiming for a world where tolerance overcomes hatred. Borg also thanked the ODIHR and his Personal Representatives on issues of tolerance and non-discrimination for their dedication and work.

Continued effort against structural inequalities

Borg urged OSCE participating states to work towards dismantling structural inequalities and systemic injustices that perpetuate anti-Semitism and discrimination. He called for the enactment of laws and policies promoting equality and safeguarding rights.

Concluding with Elie Wiesel’s words

Closing his speech, Borg quoted Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference”. The Maltese foreign minister called for collective efforts towards a world free from fear and discrimination for all, regardless of faith or ethnicity.

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