By Ferit Hoxha/*
The fight against all forms of discrimination, bigotry, xenophobia, racism and hate, including in particular anti-Semitism, has been and remains a crucial aspect in our efforts to build friendly relations within societies and among nations. Albania has supported the proposal for calling this meeting, which we consider timely and a most needed additional effort in what we think should be a common endeavours in fighting discrimination of all forms and everywhere.
Albania has aligned with the statement delivered by the European Union earlier today, so I will limit myself to some remarks on national capacity.
Humanity has paid a terrible price to discrimination, xenophobia and racism. Wars have been waged in the name of God, countless human lives have been lost in the name of religion and many generations have been sacrificed because of racism. While nations have managed through time and great efforts to address and get rid of various aspects of hate and its violent impact, anti-Semitic ideas, expressions and violence have unfortunately and regretfully survived and developed into modern times, making anti-Semitism the “oldest and the longest hatred”.
Anti-Semitism, like all other forms of hate and discrimination, is unacceptable. We utterly reject it and we will always fight against it.
Today’s anti-Semitism is being directed against Jews as individuals, as countless acts of violence have demonstrated, including most regrettably the last one in Paris a few weeks ago, but also against Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist waged by a dangerous union of radical views and extremist actions. Albania stands resolutely against all such efforts.
Anti-Semitism cannot and should not be considered as a Jewish problem, because it isn’t. It is a problem for all of us as it goes against the very principles of respect for culture and differences that our societies are built upon. It should therefore unite us in joint and continued efforts to successfully counter it.
I come from a country that has been through particular hardship during its history. Its very existence has been under threat more than once. It has known centuries of foreign domination, years of military occupation during world wars and has lived decades under a ruthless communist dictatorship. Yet, this whole painful history has always been free of any signs of anti-Semitism or bigotry.
During the dark times of the Holocaust, Albania, a multi-confessional society, became a sanctuary for those whose life was in danger from the Nazi extermination policy. Few people are aware of some particularly significant historic facts:
– no Jews were handed over to the Nazis although Albania was under occupation;
– the whole Jewish community living in Albania, residents or immigrants, all survived the Holocaust.
– there were more Jews, ten times more Jews in Albania during and after World War II than before it.
Albanians who saved Jews, both in Albania and in Kosovo, were simple people. They knew little about politics of that time but they knew a lot about humanity, solidarity and the absolute resolve to help others even if this meant risking their own lives. We take pride in this exceptional behaviour and noble heritage, and we, individually and collectively, take particular care in keeping respect and tolerance at the heart of our everyday life.
Last September, during his visit to Albania, His Holiness Pope Francis praised the Albanian people as an inspiring example for their remarkable religious harmony and interfaith collaboration. Indeed, we Albanians, we warship God in different ways but we do so in full respect, in total understanding with each other’s differences and in an unparalleled harmony.
This small place we call the world is full of differences of all sorts and this is what makes it so rich and so colourful. We have different historic narratives, speak different languages and have different ideas about the present and the future. But we should never forget that we are all equal and therefore, we should be bound by the same values, principles and commitments in our efforts to seeking a better world for us, our children and the future generations.
We cannot and should not let extremists of all kinds define our agendas and rule our lives. More than anything, we should not forget. We know where indifference led humanity is its darkest hours. It is therefore a must to stand up, firmly and continuously against anti-Semitism in all its forms, everywhere. Albania will continue to do so.
*Statement by the Ambassador Ferit Hoxha, Permanent Representative of Albania to the United Nations, at the informal meeting of the UNGA “The Rise of Anti-Semitism Violence” – New York, 22 January 2015/
By Ferit Hoxha/*