Between cultures and religions, past and future

Posted on 20. November 2013

by Daniel Gjokjeski

daniel-gjokjeski2Whoever thought that is a broad topic to cover in a blog, he`s right! However, sometimes things can be so intense on different levels that it is good to remind ourselves on some fundamental concepts and current tracks before making any judgments. Yes, the Balkans are again on the spotlight, and youth is the energy I found to be most powerful, but this time through the lens of multiculturalism.

One country is multicultural if its citizens belong to different nations; their recognition is an important aspect of personal identification and political life within this country. A culture in this case is synonymous with a nation or a group of people that is more or less institutionally complete, which occupies a specific territory and has an inherent language and history. Now, that`s what political literature says about multiculturalism and it very clearly states democracy as a system that supports the individual development and realisation by personal and group action in which respect, justice and freedom are the main criteria. In that case, the nation state can be considered in the institutionalised manner where it provides for all groups the possibility to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities. Additionally, multiculturalism can be considered as a policy for the support of multi-ethnicity in national institutions by introducing instruments that lead towards better access for all and thereby enable to better exercise rights and responsibilities.

When it comes to the Balkans, large social or cultural groups that self-identify with each other for any sort of reason be it linguistic, cultural, political, religious etc., have found themselves in a specific situation after the colaps of Yugoslavia. During the times of nation building many felt unsecure and turned themselves to what they found as closest to them no matter where they lived. We caught ourselves in a kind of nightmare in which we tried to determine ourselves by defining us as being different from the ’others‘ and the necessary cooperation with these ‘others’ based on stereotypes and prejudices. We are very aware of this situation for which there are many reasons lasting from ethnic conflicts and discrimination to international disputes and pressure as well as artificial divisions; Without a real transition we will keep the emotional barriers and confused positions which already led to violent conflicts in the past. We set as a goal the development of a society in which everybody should feel at home, and in same time, we were fighting for the position of the host of this home. Now, is that possible? Honesty starts from us.

Between existential fulfilments of individual needs, meeting the post-communist social criteria and the desire for cosmopolitan realisation it is evident that young people are actually facing many opportunities besides those challenges. Democracy is a system that supports individual development through grouping and actions in which respect, justice and freedom are the main criteria. After the implementation of the Bologna system and standardisation of higher education the doors of the world of science and art opened as never before, and mobility and international experience are now a very common option for young people to choose. There is a constant urge for support of the civil society, to create an atmosphere where each group has the opportunity of self-realisation and emancipation under the same conditions making no difference between  men and women. Moreover, due to the economic expansion and networking there is an increased need of the markets for better educated and well trained young professionals. That is why an economic development, a democratic governmental system, unified higher education, cross-border cooperation, EU integration, and many other challenges should be accepted as opportunities for the young generation so we can jointly develop and within our regions make steps on solid ground. Especially young people should take this step towards progress by networking according to their personal and organisational interests and goals, in order to gain confidence and trust towards each other, and to create synergies for future actions. These young people are the future decision makers and producers that will choose the path and pave the way, being the most important capital for the future. In addition, the interreligious dialog is crucial because many myths and stereotypes are religion based and can be deconstructed only by dialog among different religions, spiritual and humanistic traditions, this is even more important in a world where conflicts are increasingly associated with religious belonging.

Finally, the European Union as a Pax Europeana, or a peace project, should be in the top priorities not only for the candidate member states, but for EU countries as well. Its mission for free movement of people, ideas, capital and goods will be fully implemented if the principles of co-existence, tolerance and respect of all identities and differences in all European countries are kept. We have learned from our own experiences that in the language of war, we will be only victims or villains, but in the language of peace, prosperity and democracy, we can be heroes.