International workshop discusses Arab Spring one year on
The opening ceremony of the International Workshop ‘The Arab Spring…one year later’, organised by the European Conference of Justice and Peace Commissions, and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church in Malta was held today at the Archbishop’s Seminary in Rabat.
Chaired by Roderick Agius, the President of Justice and Peace Malta, the ceremony was opened with welcome speeches from Mgr Lawrence Gatt, Bishop William Kenney, and Rev. Prof. George Grima.
Prof. Arnold Cassola, Alternattiva Demokratika’s Foreign Affairs spokesman said that tyrants like Gaddafi had been kept in power for so long because the West was motivated by material greed, and so sought to enforce strong ties with oppressive regimes.
He praised the democratic elections that were carried out following the Arab Spring, and said that the lessons that had to be taken from the Arab Uprising put the accent on sharing and giving and not just grabbing and taking.”
“Sharing resources fairly and safeguarding the resources of a nation so that their own people can make use of them is a win-win situation for everyone involved”, he said.
Labour Spokesman for Foreign Affairs, George Vella said that the Arab Spring had been a purely secular revolution, sparked by people’s yearning for political freedom. He said that a year on, political Islam seemed to have taken charge, but it was taking the approach of not imposing its religious opinions, but respecting other tendencies and preferences too.
“The EU should accept all representative, democratically-elected governments. We have to acknowledge results of well-conducted elections, and reject all forms of paternalism. We should no longer consider all Islamist movements as radical and consequently dangerous."
Dr Vella also spoke about the economic impact of the revolution in countries such as Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Syria, as well as the consolidation of constitutional democracy. He questioned whether western liberal values and Muslim tradition could co-exist, and how the EU could ensure peaceful political change and security in the Arab world.
“The Arab Spring has spurred the European Union to reflect deeply as to which political institutions or structures are best-suited to keep the EU and Arab countries in meaningful bilateral dialogue. This dialogue which would be specifically aimed on enhancing the benefits and opportunities arising from cooperation, based on mutual respect, understanding and tolerance, would achieve a common aim of stability, security and prosperity in the Mediterranean Region and beyond.”
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tonio Borg said that it was naïve to say that Malta should cut itself off from any undemocratic neighbours, although of course it could not condone the actions that took place before the Arab Spring.
He said the newly-sworn in Libyan president Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf had condemned the bombing of the US embassy in Benghazi but it had yet to be seen whether he was forceful enough to condemn a small minority of extremists; however, he remained optimistic about the fact that the countries involved in the Arab Spring were prepared to go to great lengths for their freedom.
“When the euphoria of the Arab Spring subsides, what the revolutions have taught us that if people were prepared to die for their freedom, they will do their best for the revolutions not only to remain secular, but also to remain democratic, and not end up being hijacked by another agenda.”
“It will take time for true democracy to take root, and don’t expect it to be necessarily in our own image and likeness. After all, there is nothing wrong with an Islamic democracy, as long as the importance is placed on the noun, and not the adjective”, Tonio Borg concluded.