By Vladislav Strnad, The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
Cultural diplomacy is a significant tool in the promotion of the understanding of and relationship between different cultures and communities.
However, existing problems in multicultural societies should not be underestimated as this could lead to the type of situation which the residents of the housing estate “Máj” in the Czech Republic are currently experiencing. Máj is situated in South Bohemia, and is part of the town České Budějovice, on the left bank of the Vltava River. It has a population of 22,000 citizens, of which over 500 are of Romani descent. The Romani community acquired the majority of the flats from the city České Budějovice during the period of restitution in 1989.
Czech citizens and the people of the Romani community have different cultural practices, priorities and lifestyles. Over time many conflicts have arisen between these communities; none of which have yet to be solved effectively. The Romani community is accused by the public of excessive crime and the inability to adapt to the laws and regulations of the state.
“The biggest strain on the community of Máj is families who live solely on welfare benefits. As mayor of the city I have little influence over changing this, this is a job for the legislature,” said Mayor of České Budejovice Juraj Thoma. (source)
Two weeks ago, demonstrations against the Romani community took a violent turn and there were openclashes between hundreds of demonstrators, the Romani and the police – who tried to calm the situation.
Extremists from Poland, Germany, and Slovakia, already infamously hostile towards the Romani people, took advantage of this conflict and joined the side of the protestors. Hundreds of citizens were arrested and there were multiple injuries. The protestors accused the police of not acting justly and for excessive violence during the intervention. This is just one example of a situation which clearly shows that the problem of coexistence for different communities within society needs a new global solution.
On Saturday 7th of July another two demonstrations are scheduled, therefore city officials are trying to calm citizens and deter the public from getting involved via public discussions and statements.