Reframing the discourse about migration and refugees in Europe

In Brief: 
  • The Brussels Office of the Bahá’í International Community has offered the concept of the oneness of humanity as a lens for approaching the migration discourse in Europe.
  • Intolerance and discrimination often stem from the tendency of people to identify solely with social, cultural or physical characteristics.

BRUSSELS — In recent months, the Brussels Office of the Bahá’í International Community has sought to participate in the discourse about the movement of refugees to Europe and the overall question of migration.

The Office has participated in a number of recent conferences and events, including: the annual human rights and democracy conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), held 21 September to 2 October 2015 in Warsaw, Poland; the annual general conference of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), held 14 to 16 October in the Hague, Netherlands; and the Quaker Council for European Affairs and Quaker Peace and Social Witness joint conference, held 4 to 6 December in Brussels, Belgium.

“One of our main goals in participating in these events has been to join others in seeking to understand and contribute to the ongoing discourse about the impact of migration in Europe,” said Rachel Bayani, Representative of the Brussels Office. “And one theme of our contribution has been to suggest that the discourse can be reframed in the context of an understanding of humanity’s essential oneness.”

In remarks to the plenary at the Warsaw meeting, Ms. Bayani encouraged the OSCE to explore how educational processes and capacity-building endeavors can reinforce the collective awareness of humanity’s oneness, especially among the youth and younger generations.

“There is a need to search for ways to strengthen the collective awareness of humanity’s underlying oneness and to broaden the understanding of our primary over-arching human identity,” said Ms. Bayani, adding that intolerance and discrimination often stem from the tendency of people to identify solely with social, cultural or physical characteristics.

“This is not to dismiss the diversity of our secondary identities, which are a source of strength and wealth,” she said. “Rather, we need to learn to focus on our primary identity in a manner that simultaneously values the many secondary aspects of human diversity.”

Interconnectedness of humanity

At the meeting in the Hague, the Office delivered a statement that drew particular attention to the profound interconnectedness of humanity.

“The movement of populations illustrates that the peace, stability and prosperity of the different regions of the world are interconnected and that solutions cannot be intelligently considered in isolation from this global reality,” said the statement.

“Social, institutional and legal arrangements that meet the needs of one region, but do not take into consideration those of another, are proving insufficient. What is becoming apparent is that the movement of populations is but the latest symptom of a much deeper and far-reaching concern.”

At the meeting in Brussels, Ms Bayani emphasized the need to re-conceptualize our understanding of humanity and see it as one entity, rather than a juxtaposition of different entities.

“The movement of populations is among those phenomena that highlights the organic and systemic oneness of humanity,” she said in remarks to the conference there. “It shows that when there is conflict in one part of the world, another part is affected. We start seeing with increasing clarity that the well-being of people who are geographically distant affects us.”