Speech by HE George Vella, President of Malta at the MCAST Diversity Day: Celebrating differences, 2nd May 2019

President Schembri

Professor Calleja

Teachers and students

 

It is indeed a great pleasure to be here today to celebrate DIVERSITY and together with you share our strong beliefs in the promotion of a culture of acceptance, peace and mutual understanding.

It is astonishing to learn that MCAST is hosting over 600 students hailing from 70 different countries. Some would be tempted to compare the situation to Babylon. I prefer to compare it to a mosaic of colourful shades and interwoven threads of knowledge, beliefs and preferences.

I wish to congratulate YOU ALL for your strong academic commitments. You are investing time, money and energies to become the professional leaders of tomorrow. You should be proud of your choices, especially when considering the difficulties faced while studying and living in a foreign country. From the travelling I did in my career I can fully understand how difficult it could be to adjust to a new environment, to new customs and to new traditions.

It is never easy to ‘fit in’ and live according to the ‘norm’. These two concepts are frequently used and in today’s discussion they take a special role. We speak about diversity and the benefits of an interconnected world, yet too often forget that our society is constantly trying to fit us into small ‘normal’ boxes of conformity. This apparent tension between individuality, culture and society has been frequently depicted as a source of conflict. Some also argue that we are experiencing a clash of civilizations and that conflict is inevitable.

I do not agree.

Instead, I can observe that more than holding somewhat irreconcilable beliefs, we experience an apparent clash of perceptions and perceived differences. Nonetheless, we all share common universal values of love, peace and freedom. It does not matter if you come from a particular country or believe in one, many or no gods.

#one love #one heart this is what represents us today. This is what we should work for and promote in our every-day life.

We are one, yet we are many. We share one heart, yet we have the power to generate pulsating interactions and dialogue across the globe.

This is what defines us today. This is also the reality for a small country like Malta.

I am sure MCAST is providing the ideal platform to enhance inter-cultural dialogue and understanding. Furthermore, it is a perfect environment for exploring new avenues of dialogue and different methods of cooperation.

Music, sports and food are three versatile opportunities that have the power to uncover hidden similarities and shared preferences. I therefore invite you to think about culture in a broad and holistic manner.

Whilst recognizing that traditional customs are important and define specific cultural individuality, I cannot but highlight the necessity to look at novel cultural expressions and opportunities. In some instances, these are very different from the ‘classical’ and ‘folkloristic’ ones and could include interactions via new musical genres, such as Hip Hop, Rap and Electronic music, or artistic expressions via street art. Food and games are also an innovative way how to strengthen unity in diversity and explore fresh ways how to merge different cuisines and tastes.

I am confident that this special day celebrating diversity is an important event for us all. For you students, I believe it is important as it gives you the opportunity to share ideas and strengthen inter-personal skills. For you educators, it provides you with an important occasion to reflect on the changing profile of MCAST as well as the changing profile of the Maltese society at large.

Most importantly it is an excellent occasion to celebrate diversity and recognize that we are one love, one heart and one human race.