In presence of many prominent liberals from Central and Eastern Europe, the Promoting Tolerance Programme ran jointly by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, celebrated its 25th Anniversary in Berlin. Emil Kirjas, LI Secretary General and alumni of the Programme Program, shared at the event in Germany his experiences and enthusiasm for fighting discrimination, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
Speaking at the opening of the event, Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs and initiator of the Programme, recalled that over the years FNF and AJC “have identified emerging leaders from political parties, NGOs, think tanks and media coming from the new democracies of Central, East and Southeast Europe and introduced them to initiatives aiming at fostering pluralism and respect for diversity in Europe and the United States of America.” He praised the knowledge and competence shared by the Programme alumni in their public service on national level, pointing out in the audience former liberal ministers active in LI: Keit Pentus-Rosimannus MP, Former Foreign Minister (ERP, Estonia), Tinatin Khidasheli, Former Defence Minister (Georgia) and Roman Jakič, Former Defence Minister (Slovenia).
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former German Justice Minister and Member of the FNF Board of Directors, at the start of a panel on Confronting Bigotry and Intolerance in the Face of Rising Populism, spoke passionately about the role of liberals in countering populist politics based on people’s fears. She emphasised the importance of cooperation and coordination among the liberals internationally in offering “common clear answers to complex questions.” In that sense she spoke of the Promoting Tolerance Programme as an “exemplary” platform for dialogue, designed to inspire similar efforts towards advancing democracy, improving the rights of minorities and building civil society.
In his discussions at the panel, LI Secretary General Kirjas said:
we should never remain silent when we are confronted with expression of intolerance and xenophobia, not by judging or labelling people, but by a compassionate engagement explaining that no one should feel bad or suffer for a spoken word or action done. We tend to reflect on every news with the possible impact on the economy, markets and currency status. Perhaps we have to change our narrative about how we see progress in the future and raise hope for better quality of life, by emphasising that instead of always having more in economic terms we are happier by having more in the way we interact and live with each other in our families, communities, professional and social environments.