The Wallenberg cube

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Students and teachers from the Västermalm secondary school  invited me to say a few words when the Sundsvall cube was inaugurated. Students worked  with their own interpretations on the subject of the “Right of asylum in other countries”. Students and teachers from 8 different countries participating in a Erasmus network were present.

This project was initiated  by the Raoul Wallenberg foundation. The project is about human rights but also about our obligations as human beings towards others. 30 cubes have been spread out to schools all over Sweden, each one representing a human right as stipulated and agreed by the United Nations. “The right of asylum in other countries” that the Västermalm School has been assigned to work with, fits all too well, with Raoul Wallenberg’s own commitments and achievements during and after world war two. Who was Raoul Wallenberg, you may ask? Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat that saw how the Nazis persecuted Jews and others in Budapest where he was stationed. Wallenberg created false documents to help people out of the country and into safety. Later on he organized bus transports for many of the survivors of the holocaust and the surviving victims of Nazi crimes against humanity. Many of these refugees came to Sweden and started a new life here.

All this brings us to today’s situation in Sweden and in the rest of Europe. Europe is once again in trouble when it comes to coping with the refugee situation. Some countries try to pass on responsibility to other countries. We want to shut down frontiers and imagine that these people do not exist. We need each and every one of us not to feel guilty, but rather to understand the mechanisms that create the situations we are experiencing today. We have in Europe a good life and we need to share with others. If we permit that differences in society grow even more we will have more crimes and all other social problems that inequality create. Sweden is richer than ever. Every year we spend more in education and care. But many still expect more.

Here in Sundsvall we have 8 political parties at the local council. The third largest party was formed and grew based on the idea that we have too many refugees. The people that vote for this party must have a reason to do so. Racist people and people that are scared of foreigners exist in all our European countries  but now they have people that support them. We have to understand that many people are scared of globalization and feel that they are being ignored or pushed aside by technical development, new ways of communication and new competitive labor relations. These people feel unsure as whether immigrants and refugees are not presenting new threats to them.

My message to you today is only one. We all have an individual responsibility when creating the society we want to live in. We can choose to work together or we can choose to look after our own interests and let ourselves be influenced by cheap and easy propaganda or we can try to be aware citizens conscious that what we do and how we think or choose to express ourselves prepares the path for the future. A huge thanks to teachers and students that worked on this subject. The cube is yours!

Erasmus bringing people together

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Some very good things have been created by the European Union. One of these is the Erasmus programme. This programme aims at providing meetings within education, training, youth and sports. Sundsvall is currently involved in a programme that takes up “Active Citizenship and Environmental Awareness through Formal and Non-formal Education”.

This programme would most probably not be possible without the existence of the European Union. Meetings between students, teachers and school leaders give an invaluable possibility for advance and development of  questions of common and collective interest within education.

Joining Västermalm’s school in Sundsvall on this topic we find the, the International school of Ostrava, Czech Republic, the Cabrini Professional School in Taranto, Italy, the Ausros College in Taurage, Lithuania, the Lanchester school in the UK, the Liceum T. Zana in Wschowa, Poland, the Escola Casquilhos in Barreiro, Portugal and the Ienachita Vacarescu school in Targoviste, Romania .

To all visiting teachers and students I extend a most warm welcome to Sundsvall. The theme for this network is the spreading of good experiences through active citizenship on what can be done to enhance and improve our care and concern for the environment.

Truth is, that the environment belongs to all and affects all. Therefore, what we can do today is of great importance for our lives tomorrow. When heavy rains cause floods in Durham just off Lanchester it is a sign to all of us. When winters get shorter and warmer in Sundsvall we need to ask questions. Wherever we are, the need of awareness is there. Education is central in all our countries for a progressive and efficient improvement of knowledge, and practices concerning environmental issues.

When I think of this evening’s meeting and the people involved I feel optimism and I see possibilities. If we add up the numbers of citizens that live in our 8 communities we come to a number of over 700 thousand people. If all students in our schools would become active in making others aware of the environmental challenges we could reach a larger part of our population. It all adds up.