1. Aug. 2006

Speech on the
1st August
in Pemperton BC,

We should not close the door
while others knock on it to ask for help

Ladies and gentlemen, dear children,
Dear Swiss fellow citizens and those, who feel close with them

I am grateful to Heidi and Louise to be able to speak at the 1st of August to a community who knows the words of another national anthem better then the Swiss one.

A certain distance allows you to see more than those who are too close – and I don’t think that knowing outdated and often over pathetic words by heart is a sign of being a good patriot; the melody is pleasant enough.

The first of august is for all of us an opportunity to do, what intellectuals like me try to do every day: to reflect on our relations to each other, to the country or the countries we belong to and on their relation to the world, and to ask ourselves if we and our countries are realising our potentials to contribute to a world in which all human beings are able to find a home like we have found one in Canada or Switzerland.

Asking you such questions regarding Switzerland here so far away from the Swiss homes seems to me to be neither wrong nor unrealistic. It’s not unrealistic because you know more then many others that geographical distances do not mean much anymore in our days. And it is quite right, because as Swiss citizens you are even here invited to express yourself on laws the Swiss Parliament has passed – a democratic privilege many Canadian citizens would welcome for themselves regarding laws which have been passed in Ottawa or even Victoria.

The next invitation to the Swiss citizens to do so concerns the two laws, which would bring to Switzerland one of the hardest antiasylum regimes and foreigner-legislations of all European countries. How it comes that one of the richest and most privileged nations of the world seems to be ready to deny basic human rights to those who flee poverty and other forms of violence? Did we forget that we did the same some 150 years ago, when many of us tried to come for instance to Canada to start a new beginning? Did others provide, as so long with our basic security that we lost the empathy for those who do not share our privileges? Did we forget that today walls are not the wisest way anymore to protect your well being while others feel excluded and lack the basics to make a living?

It might be, that being in Canada puts you in a better position to discuss the answers to such difficult questions. Because some distance opens the angles and widens your views.

Canada’s history of the last 60 years could show Switzerland that you have to be engaged abroad to protect your people’s interests at home. And Canada’s policy towards other nationalities illustrates that openness towards others is a sign of your own strength and only the weak and those with a bad conscious just shut the doors and close their eyes when desperate people knock at their doors to ask for help.

Here in Pemperton we just have to look up and see this fabulous nature to understand why so many Swiss feel so much at home here. Let’s use this unique opportunity to live in such a beautiful environment to find the power to share some of these privileges with others.

By participating and sharing you may integrate more and better – an experience which is illustrated by the Swiss and the Canadian history – and would be not only a good guideline for their own future but also a way how they and we may contribute for a world in which more people may find their home as we have managed to do so.

Thank you very much for your kind attention and I wish you a very nice evening, not only today but also tomorrow.

Pemperton, BC, Canada 1. August 2006

Andreas Gross

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