Discussion on Burden of Tolerance in European Values Context
On November 16, 2015, at the House of Europe in Sofia, a discussion on the topic “The burden of tolerance in the context of the European values” was held. The forum was organized by SIETAR – Bulgaria, the non-profit organization “Etnotolerance” and National Alliance for Social Responsibility (NASO) on the occasion of the International Day of Tolerance. Representatives of non-governmental organizations, university lecturers and students, teachers, educators, psychologists, philosophers, social workers, etc. took part in the discussion. The topic on European values and their relation to politics and social work were analyzed in philosophical, personal, psychological, political and social aspects. There were three panels of discussion: “Tolerance towards minority groups in Bulgaria and in Europe” led by Prof. Plamen Makariev teaching at the Philosophy Faculty at Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” and member of the Board of SIETAR – Bulgaria; “Tolerance towards migrants and refugees” led by Prof. Anna Krasteva, Director of the Center for European Refugees, Migration and Ethnic Studies at New Bulgarian University; and “Tolerance towards persons with disabilities” led by Georgi Georgiev, President of NASO and Board member of the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD).
The requirements for tolerance towards minority groups were logically related to the topic of tolerance towards refugees and migrants as these groups form ethnic minorities and national communities who very often face the intolerance of the hosting countries. The discussion was also partly influenced by the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. At the end, a conclusion was made that when discussing tolerance, integration and the multicultural aspects of communities, the topic on refugees and migrants should be separated from the discussion of terrorism. Integration was claimed to be a multifaceted process involving various stakeholders, whereby, as key criteria for its implementation, mutual respect, willingness and interest were pointed out.
In the panel discussing persons with disabilities, Mr. Georgiev stressed that, in every discussion, we should be led by the principles for respecting human rights since, no matter whether people had a disability or not, in the first place, they were people. Although the discussion was dedicated to the Day of Tolerance, the President of NASO also underlined that we should act in a tolerant and humanitarian way every day, especially towards disadvantaged people and vulnerable groups. Many of NASO’s members took part in the discussion as well, e.g. representatives of Cedar Foundation, Eyes on Four Paws Foundation, For Our Children Foundation, Day Care Center for Children with Disabilities and Transitional Care Home, who shared their personal and professional experience, gave opinions and commented on both problems and good practices providing opportunities for work with vulnerable groups and communities. At the end of the meeting, it was agreed on that tolerance towards children and persons with disabilities could be achieved through targeted support, and although in the last few years the levels of tolerance had been increasing, further partnerships were required in order to achieve greater integration and a better life for persons with disabilities.