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Events :: Достъп :: To Defeat Intolerance and Inequality We Must Have Open Minds and Open Hearts

To Defeat Intolerance and Inequality We Must Have Open Minds and Open Hearts

Collage - Emi and Ani pres mid bottomSofia, October 16, 2014

Every year since 2007 on Blog Action Day, thousands of bloggers come together to talk about one important issue, like poverty, climate change and human rights amongst others. This year the event is held on 16 October and the theme is inequality. HMA Jonathan Allen joins the initiative and blogs why to defeat intolerance and inequality, we must have open minds and open hearts. H.E. Jonathna Allen is not only Great Britain's Ambassador to Bulgaria, but also a blogger, our - BFPA's - partner and a supporter of important social causes! In the picture you can see a moment from the premiere of the short film "Emi and Ani" at the British Ambassador's Residence in Sofia in March 2014.

When we are sick, the first step to treatment is to recognise there is a problem. In the same way, in our society the first step to tackling intolerance and inequality must be to accept and recognise that they exist.

A big barrier to doing so comes from our own stereotypes and pre-conceptions. The effect of stereotypes is often to blind us to reality and to comfort us in our existing prejudices. People can make sweeping comments and assumptions, without applying the basic value that everyone should be treated as an individual, regardless of our previous experiences of others.

Over the three years that I have spent in Bulgaria, I have seen many examples of committed people breaking down such stereotypes. The Pride march, at first so controversial, each year passes more peacefully. This year one of my colleagues brought her young son, to learn for himself that everyone has the right to be who they truly are.

A partner organisation opened a great mixed-ability playground in South Park, where disabled and able-bodied children can play together. With my daughter, I have supported Bulgaria’s thriving disabled cricket and blind cricket teams. The embassy runs an intern scheme for people who are under-represented in the workplace. All of these examples challenge our natural tendency to look at what people cannot do, rather than celebrating what they can.

As an Embassy, we have also worked with the Roma community. Every year children come to celebrate Bango Vassil at the embassy and to sing and tell stories. We hosted the screening of a short movie, written and made by the Roma community, to help prevent school drop-out and early marriage. There are more and more programmes each year to promote integration.

When it comes to integration, and the reasons why it doesn’t happen, we have to accept that blame cannot lie only at one community’s door. It takes a commitment to change from both sides for meaningful change to happen. I found living proof of the power of enlightened politics, when I spent a day with the Kmetal of Kavarna.

To treat a major illness, you need to tackle the individual symptoms. Sometimes when faced with major inequality, we can feel too daunted to act. We don’t know where to start.

I believe you need to start small: break down people’s preconceptions and lazy assumptions and show them a different reality. Some of us will be active in this endeavour, throwing ourselves into projects and organising events. But we can all play a vital role.

We can all try to ignore the prejudices we have and keep an open mind and open hearts.

As stereotypes weaken and fade in Bulgaria, so it becomes easier to address intolerance and inequality.

 

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Events :: Достъп :: To Defeat Intolerance and Inequality We Must Have Open Minds and Open Hearts