Diversity is a Reality



A brief statement at the Grote Markt Bruges during the Hart boven Hard Manifestation on 25 March 2015

Hart boven Hard is a public interest group. Though initiated by a couple of free citizens, Hart boven Hard is driven by the public. I can attempt an English translation of the name for the Anglophone community but I should not do that because I am sure I will not sufficiently capture the essence of the name. Permit me therefore to simply express my personal understanding of Hart boven Hard as a name, as a project. For me, Hart boven Hard is a mirror through which all world citizens could see the warm hearts of those behind the initiative. It is for me nothing less than an expression of the heart in the right place.

In the summer of 2014, I recall reading about rumours of far-reaching austerity measures and cuts being planned by the negotiating partners towards the formation of a new Flemish and Federal Government in this country. My immediate reaction was that of disbelief. Things are already hard enough as they are. Why would anybody with the “Heart in the right place” contemplate cutting so close to the bones of the hardworking but socially traumatized citizens of this country? Depressed as I was, I drew strength from the writings of social commentators, Wouter Hillaert and Hugo Franssen who would incidentally become the Founding Fathers of the initiative under whose umbrella we are gathered this afternoon in the ancient city of Bruges, the provincial capital of West Flanders.

As I pay tribute to Wouter and Hugo, I want to pay even bigger homage to Stefaan Verbeek, Johan Bultiauw, my fellow Ostenders but also Wouter Rommel, our host here in Bruges and his team. When you decided that the theme of our regional action will be “Diversity is a Reality”, you made a bold statement of fact because a little over 20 years ago, when I arrived at this beautiful country, walking through the Kapellestraat in Ostend or through this Grote Markt in Bruges, if you are lucky, you may come across one or two non-native residents of the city. It was predominantly a sea of European faces. To hold an intercultural event of this nature then was special enough, not to mention having an African and an Asian fellow citizens speaking at the event. That was unthinkable then! But that has changed for the better and that is good. Sometimes too, the change appears to be happening too fast and too furious for some good but genuinely concerned people to cope with. The mistake of years gone by is the illusion that through draconian laws, Government can hold back the ticking clock of interculturalism. What they did with such laws was that they increased the fears and insecurities of those good but vulnerable people. Hopefully, those in authority now are fast realizing that rather than strengthening the laws around diversity in our society, we need to work on efficiently managing it. This is what I believe that this event with focus on diversity as a reality is mainly about.

If there was ever a time when monoculture existed, that time is dead and buried. Diversity has caught up with us and has come to stay. It is up to us to manage it such that we derive the best out of it. I am sure that turning in the grave right now Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck would be encouraging us as we gather under their watchful eyes this afternoon. I am sure they would be telling us to spend more time discovering the things that unite us and spend less energy tirelessly looking for the things that divide us. By this manifestation taking off in Ostend, we have made a good start on this historical journey through Bruges, Gent and other beautiful towns and villages of Flanders to Brussels. The spirit of camaraderie is around us and will lead us safely to destination Brussels. I can predict the momentum awaiting us as the wind of righteousness blows behind and propels us to achieving our goal in the interest of our common humanity.

Thank you and wishing us a great sojourn!

Collins NWEKE | Councillor Diversity Affairs, Ostend City Council | Bruges, 25 March 2015


2 thoughts on “Diversity is a Reality”

  1. “If the other side agrees to recognise Iran’s (nuclear) rights based on international regulations, Iran is ready to negotiate anything,” Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency on Thursday. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests..

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