#ECCB “Diversity, Otherness, Prejudice, and Fears” was the title of a special conference held on the 28th of April 2022 at the Wallenstein Palace in Prague. It was organised by the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in cooperation with the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic. The conference was held under the auspices of Senate President Miloš Vystrčil.
The day-long seminar mostly consisted of presentations and discussions on the human rights of minorities. Since this meeting was held as part of the Weeks Against Racism event, the main topic of discussion was discrimination and hate speech on racial grounds. The hall was filled mainly with high-school students and their parents.
Theologian Petr Gallus (Protestant Theological Faculty of the Charles University) began by recalling the context of human rights from the perspective of history, philosophy, and ethics. Among other things, he reflected on the question of whether the concept of human rights was related to religion or to values we refer to as Christian, and to what extent these rights may be considered universal.
Monika Šimůnková from the Office of the Ombudsman spoke about the legal framework and about her position as Deputy Ombudsman. The issue of discrimination against Romani refugees from Ukraine has turned out to be a very urgent one. Although the majority population receives assistance, housing and job offers, Ukrainian Roma are generally denied these opportunities in the Czech Republic. The morning session was concluded with the speech of the director of the Museum of Romani Culture, Jana Horváthová. She pointed out specific systemic problems in education, among other fields, which sparked a lively debate. Students asked about the possibility of specific legislative changes or ways to learn more comprehensively about Romani culture.
The afternoon session brought the participants into an international context. Political scientist Zora Hesová (Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts, Charles University) described the way in which the issue of human rights is becoming politicized and how the perception of society is gradually becoming less and less sensitive to these topics. She demonstrated the situation using the example of Syrian war refugees in the Balkans and in Central Europe (Croatia, Hungary, Poland).
Selma Muhič Dizdarevič (Faculty of Humanities, Charles University) talked about hate speech in public space and on social networks. She drew attention to the context of the hate speech that accompanied the suppression of the rights of Jews during WWII. In fact, the conference itself was held on Yom HaSho'a, the day of commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, as mentioned in the introduction by Pavel Pokorný, Synodal Senior of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. Selma Muhič Dizdarević then answered questions from students and recalled her own experience when she came to the Czech Republic as a refugee from Bosnia in the first half of the 1990s.
In her final contribution, Gwendolyn Albert, who works with Amnesty International and ROMEA, presented a foreign perspective on the situation in the Czech Republic. She also outlined the possibilities of international cooperation.
At the end of the programme, the results of the student essay competition were announced. The competition was also organised by the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and supported by Senator Miloš Vystrčil. High school students from all over the country were dealing with the topic “I’m not a racist but…”
Forty works in two age categories were finally presented to the jury. The ranking of the entries was decided by a committee whose members included senator and diplomat Pavel Fischer, moderator Nora Fridrichová, Charter 77 signatory and former ombudsman Anna Šabatová, Evangelical Academy school coordinator Helena Wernischová and Synodal Senior emeritus Daniel Ženatý. The conference and the competition were prepared by the Human Rights Commission of the Synodal Council of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in cooperation with Senator Petr Šilar and the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.