Walking through Parliament square earlier this week, I could not help but notice a Jewish Menorah lamp placed prominently and a notice wishing happy Hanukkah to all. This, complemented by a background of Christmas decorations, all at the ready for believers and not to celebrate one of the most important feast in the Christian and commercial calendar. This would have been unheard of a few decades ago but whether we are realizing it or not there has gradually been a movement towards a growing recognition and acceptance of ethnic, cultural and religious diversities and the public display of the menorah is a confirmation of this.
International migration is playing an important role in this new reality and even Countries that were previously considered totalitarian and all for homogenisation are now acknowledging the importance of giving sufficient space and due recognition to different ethnic groups and cultural communities.
In the news we constantly hear about the influx of illegal immigrants, the problems they cause in some villages across the country, their refusal to integrate and their contrasting way of thinking. Their inclination of trying to impose their traditions on us is not exactly the ideal way to promote diversity and unfortunately it is always these negative aspects that make the headlines. We cannot ignore the plight of these peoples, but the fact that there is a big problem is undeniable and it needs to be addressed as soon as possible. However my intention today is to focus on the positives rather than the negatives and to give a mention to those thousands that even though culturally and ethnically diverse, have managed to integrate fully in and moreover contribute in our communities, all this without friction and confrontation.
Malta has always been the crossroad of many civilizations, the bridge to the African continent, a stepping stone to Europe, and a refuge to many. A case in point is the community of around fifty families of Indian Shindi origin, who mainly through their shop keeping have been an integral part of our business community since around 1887, that is more than one hundred and thirty years. As small as the community maybe, it still maintains the Indian traditions and organizes celebrations such as Diwali and other Indian Festivals. This community is a perfect example of how integration is possible, and I definitely think that many other communities of the sort should follow suit.
With globalization, we are becoming more eclectic with every passing day, mobility of workers is no longer an exception, and people who would never otherwise considered Malta as a place to live in are now settling here, sometimes with their families and sometimes for good. Some settle in more quickly and smoothly than others. It is understandable that a Sicilian would find the transition easier than someone from Asia, but that all depends on various conditions, such as accommodation and communication. We are bound to play our part in all this. The economic growth this country is experiencing makes it the influx of foreign nationals a necessity but we cannot just stop at that, those of you that have lived and worked abroad know only too well how lonely and how dreary days can be in a country that is not yours and how grateful one is when he finds a helping hand. We need to ensure that all those who wish to do so are integrated in our communities given that they accept our way of living and our traditions. Meeting people from different countries and with different cultures is an experience that everyone should embrace. This is an opportunity that no one can afford to pass by. We can learn something from everyone.
It is understandable that one may feel wary moving from our comfort zone, but as much as we expect foreigners to accept our ways, we should be open to learn about theirs, be ready to try their cuisine, learn their history and respect their beliefs. Sharing ideas is what a community is all about, we all preach about acceptance and loving our neighbours. Maybe it is high time we really put that maxim in practice.