United in their desire for an effective approach to fighting hate crimes against certain groups in Bulgarian society, the leaderships of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” and of the Central Israelite Religious Council and the founders of the Gays and Lesbians Accepted in Society (GLAS) Foundation held talks on January 31, Shalom said in a Facebook post.
The talks involved Shalom president Associate Professor Alexander Oscar, the head of the Central Israelite Religious Council, Sofia Cohen, and the founders of the GLAS Foundation, Simeon Vassilev and Dimitar Bogdanov.
The GLAS Foundation, established in 2014, focuses on headline targets like positive representation of the LGBTI community in society, working with parents of gay people and holding public campaigns combating homophobic hate crimes and promoting tolerance. It is part of the organising committee of the annual Sofia Pride.
“There is no room for division when we have a common cause,” Dr Oscar said.
“We all want to live in a society that accepts those who are different, whether on a religious, ethnic, social or other basis. We want to live in a society, in which no one is afraid to show their real faces, their real names, to share our beliefs out loud,” he said.
“I believe that young people in Bulgaria have the strength to fight for the promotion of the democratic values that guarantee fundamental human rights and the rule of law. Today we met with new companions on this path and will be happy to walk it together.”
The talks on January 31 were part of continuing efforts to build mutual acceptance in Bulgarian society.
Recently, part of this process has been the September 2018 ceremony with the initial signatories of the “Sofia City of Tolerance and Wisdom” manifesto, intended as a long-term campaign to unite institutions and civic organisations in opposition to hate speech and negative discrimination.
The concept is to make no distinction in combating hate speech and hostile attitudes to any minority in society, while building mutual acceptance for all.
This comes against a background of concerns about profound problems such as narrow nationalism, and manifestations such as the Lukov March, a torchlight parade held every February in tribute to a Second World War pro-Nazi Bulgarian leader.
Plans are that this year, on February 16 – the same day as the Lukov March – further leaders from spheres ranging from politics to Bulgaria’s intellectuals add their signatures to the commitment to build mutual acceptance and reject intolerance, in the name of a future for the country that is open to all who live in it.