Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pointless deaths

Housing problems for immigrants seem to be the same everywhere. People trying to make better lives for themselves are prepared to suffer temporary inconveniences if it means they will be better off in the long run. But overcrowded, dirty and potentially dangerous living conditions inevitably lead some to tragic conclusions. This just makes me want to cry.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Integration Football

The country of Poland vs. the continent of Africa…

I was sure he’s said six o’clock, but as I scanned the field at 6.15 last Sunday evening I could only see the red shirts of the Polish 'Ballaton' team members as they jogged, stretched and warmed up with the ball.

Around 6.30, a mismatched but brightly coloured African team appeared gradually and took their turn warming up.

The match kicked off ten minutes later and remained without goals for a good half hour. Some of the Polish team members however, who had done double-takes at the female member of the African team soon stopped smiling in the face of her impressive footballing skills and seemed to become more defensive in their playing.

I’m not a sports-commentator so without going into too much detail suffice it to say that after a pretty slow start the African side slid goal after goal past the Polish defence. The Polish team were four goals down (including one own goal I’m afraid) before they managed to pick themselves up and score a goal for themselves. However, as the final whistle blew the score was 5-1 to the Africans.

Despite the rather unequal result, the atmosphere of the match was good. There was mainly clean playing (possibly helped by one of the African side reminding his fellow players at frequent intervals: ‘No foul! No foul!) and despite a few cynical remarks (the Polish team seems very young…are you sure there aren’t more players on the African team…?) there was plenty of good humour between the players, coaches and supporters.

As I left, I asked the coach of the African team, Simon Mol, if he was happy. ‘That’s what integration’s all about’ he said, a big grin spread across his face.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Hate Crimes

Hate crimes

It’s been reported that hate crimes, specifically religious and against Muslims, have risen six-fold in London since the bombings last month. Coupled with an increase in stop-and-search operations affecting young Muslims and the shoot-to-kill policy that resulted in the death of an innocent Brazilian, there is cause for concern. This is not to say that the Police don’t need to be strong in their determination to fight terrorism but the balance between stopping terrorists and violating the rights of innocent people is a delicate one, which does not seem yet to have been reached.

Hate crimes in Poland are related to hate crimes everywhere in the sense that they result from intolerance and discrimination. In the past few months numerous examples of hate crimes have been brought to the attention of the Association for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Poland. For example, in Warsaw, an unprovoked attack in a packed fast-food restaurant left a Cameroonian refugee needing a head scan in hospital, after the security guards stood by and let the attack happen. Around the same time a Sociology Professor in Krakow, originally from Sierra Leone, had his face spat on as he stood in the street talking to friends.

Whether a young Muslim in Britain or an African in Poland, hate crimes leave their psychological imprint and as everyone is well aware and recent events go some way to demonstrate, violence only breeds more violence. The only way to counter these incidents is breaking this vicious circle. Showing people that Muslims are not all terrorists, that just because a person has a different colour skin doesn’t make him or her less of a human being, that everybody has basic human rights that should be respected, can only lead to greater understanding and less hate. Everyone has their role to play, governments, the media, organisations, individuals.

Hate is a powerful weapon, and one which has to be tackled urgently but carefully, acknowledging that there are great penalties to pay if we fail.