BIC Brussels: Policies alone not sufficient to address racial prejudice

February 21, 2023

BIC BRUSSELS — A new statement by the Brussels Office of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) explores one of the most pressing questions facing Europe today—how to overcome racial and other forms of prejudice.

The statement, titled “Reflections on the implementation of action plans against racism: Fostering social cohesion at the grassroots,” coincided with last week’s European Union (EU) conference that was held in Stockholm, Sweden, on the implementation of member states’ action plans against racism. These plans follow the adoption of the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan 2020-2025 announced shortly after the 2020 demonstrations across the United States and worldwide calling for racial justice.

The BIC statement highlights that the adoption of national action plans by EU member states acknowledging the need to address prejudice is a positive step. However, the statement notes that “deep-seated prejudices cannot be unrooted from the hearts and minds of individuals—much less from the structures that underpin society and the institutions that serve it—through anti-racism legislation alone.”

Elaborating on this, Rachel Bayani of the Brussels Office emphasizes that addressing inequality and racism in the increasingly diverse cities and villages of Europe requires a careful examination of the dynamics of community life at the local level.

“Achieving harmony at the grassroots is vital to overcoming racism at all levels of society,” she says. “If people merely aspire to live side-by-side without striving for unity and cohesion, then harmful attitudes will persist.”

The BIC statement draws on insights from experiences in Bahá’í community-building activities throughout Europe, noting that when people from diverse backgrounds work together in initiatives that contribute to the material and spiritual progress of their neighborhoods, they encounter perspectives different from their own, build close bonds of friendship, and become more conscious of the discrimination faced by their neighbors.

The BIC statement also refers to new possibilities that could emerge for addressing racial prejudice if national and European institutions were to view the populations they serve “as endowed with capacity and as protagonists of change.” Through this lens, local populations would be seen as a source of strength for a community. This untapped potential, suggests the BIC, could be realized through the creation of consultative spaces where officials and residents can work together to address community needs and contribute to policymaking.

The BIC statement, which can be viewed here, is part of the Brussels Office’s ongoing efforts to contribute to the discourse on social cohesion and global governance.