The Arab Spring is a 'complex phenomenon' that must be analyzed and understood outside trivializing stereotypes, and Europeans should 'respect the right of other nations to define democracy in accordance with their traditions and religious beliefs. These are some of the opinions of the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions which met in Malta last week.
Representatives of the 30 national Justice and Peace commissions related to the respective European Bishops' Conferences came together in Rabat, Malta, from September 14 to 16, during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon, to place at the center of their annual workshop the analysis of the Arab Spring.
The meeting said that in all the Arab uprisings, there were common aspirations for freedom and the affirmation of rights frustrated by oppressive regimes. One can see in many cases even the tension to an exercise of citizenship that recognizes everyone equal civil rights and equal access to goods and public services. But these intent ideals "must be safeguarded throughout the long and difficult task of constructing a new foundation for the nation". Indeed, there are clear warning signs in some cases. In many situations it is clear that, for some "hope is giving way to frustration as progress slows down and dreams of a better future fail to materialise". In this critical step, the greatest threat is posed by forces, both "internal and external, which seek to provoke and exploit division, violence and insecurity."
Europeans, aware of the value of democratic systems, according to the Conference of Justice and Peace/Europe cannot, however, "assume that they could simply be transplanted to other national and cultural contexts." We need to respect the right of other nations to define democracy in accordance with their traditions and
religious beliefs, at the same time we cannot ignore the "need to protect the
dignity and human rights."
During the days spent in Malta, the responsible for the Commissions of Justice and Peace in Europe also visited centres for migrants who landed on the island in their desperate "journeys of hope."
"We were shocked to see that in our modern, developed society, people still live in such basic and over-crowded conditions," they wrote in their report, while acknowledging the efforts and goodwill of participants and volunteers who assist the Maltese immigrants.
"The European countries of the Mediterranean - Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta - bear a heavy burden .... Other European countries cannot allow geography to distance them from their responsibilities."
The Conference also denounced the role of the media, with their titles on migratory "invasions" and over-simplified accounts of what is happening in the Middle East contribute to the growth of "racism and xenophobia" in Europe. They also proposed to launch a strong and binding Arms Trade Treaty " aimed at making a safer world for all".