In my view, it is extremely difficult to have a sensible or even any kind of dialogue about migration today in Hungary. In the first place this is because political parties reveal truths about the phenomenon in accordance with different political interests instead of the public getting credible information from experts on what is taking place under the term ’migration’ (or ’migration of nations’). These revelations do not at all assist everyday people to responding appropriately and humanely to these situations that take place in everyday life. Just think of the events taking place in Öcsény recently. Lynch sentiments came to the surface just because a civil organisation, among controlled circumstances, intended to send migrant children to the village as a holiday resort. Villagers even attacked the mayor whom they otherwise liked and had accepted their lead for years. For what reason? I wonder how many residents of Öcsény had met migrants in reality and how many people had been aroused by public sentiments driven only by politics and political media.
It was for these reasons that I earlier started to ponder that if at any time I would start volunteering I would definitely do it in this field. I consider myself an open person and I try to orientate myself not along doctrines and dogmas but I rather try to make decisions on the basis of my own experience and common sense. Nevertheless, from time to time, the media and the continuous official cramming makes me lose my footing and think about whether I am right in thinking that we have to be open. However, what I never become uncertain of is that there are certain basic values which simply cannot be questioned. One of these values is that everyone must have one or more chances for proving that he or she is valuable and that the presumption of innocence and the right for a safe life is due to him or her no matter which part of the world he or she comes from. But of course, I know that this needs minimum two people just like everything else. We cannot help someone who does not want any help. We cannot force someone to integrate who does not want to integrate.
So, armed with these ideas, I entered the program of Jövőkerék (Wheel of Future) Foundation which was entitled Skills&Jobs&Fun. This program is intended to help and assist students who are studying in Hungary and come from third countries. I was full with scare, curiosity and prejudices, of course. After I had met the program coordinators and learnt that my mentored student will be a Muslim boy from Algeria these feelings strengthened. On the one hand my head was full with the things I had seen on TV: terrorist acts, radical Islam, certain ultraconservative, fundamentalist Muslim movements and trends. On the other hand, I was also afraid that English would be our common language, which would make the situation – which had already been perceived as complicated – even more difficult.
Under the frame of a foundation project I was assisting Salim as a volunteer who came to our country from Algeria to study a masters' course. During our meeting we primarily tried to acquire each other's mother-tongue and we tried to get to know each other and our cultures in the situations arising from this project. My writing was an endeavour to sum up what this 9 months meant to me, what my prejudices were when I entered the program and how these preconceptions and preliminary expectations changed with the progress of time.
My composition was inspired by the joint work with Salim. My experience was that it is primarily fear and prejudices arising from fear that can be the main obstacle to being open for the cognition and acceptance of another culture. Another important experience of mine was that one can easily overmystify a culture which is unknown to him/her whereas all cultures are formed by individuals who are basically similar to us and are struggling with very similar problems.
My main motivation to enter the competition was to share my experience and to motivate other people through this to search similar opportunities and situations. I think, we can gain and develop a much more realistic picture of other cultures - even of feared ones - through experiences of our own than through information conveyed by the media.