Author: H.E. Prof. Guido de Marco, K.O.M., B.A., LL.D., President of Malta
H.E. Prof. Guido de Marco, K.O.M., B.A., LL.D., President of Malta during the Opening Statement
Ladies and Gentlemen,
From all walks of life, from a number of continents around the world, from different family and social traditions, you have gathered here today in an effort to make of the coming week one which holds promise.
For yours is not merely a token presence designed to add colour and flavour to a serious discussion regarding the nature and reality of Maltese identity. Yours is a presence which is and has always been an intimate and intrinsic characteristic of the very mark of the Maltese identity;
- an identity which was built over the passage of our history through interaction with that which was alien.
- an identity which reflects a complex melange of traditions, language and culture, with which our people have come into contact over the years.
- an identity which continues to evolve through its effort to reach out and build bridges of dialogue in our region and beyond.
Yours remains one of the key contributions towards this evolving Maltese identity.
You remain one of the crucial vehicles for assuring that our identity remains a living reality beyond our shores.
Ladies and Gentlemen
In more than one sense it is correct to say that Malta is larger than its geography. The confines of this Island have assumed proportions greater than those dictated by measurement. In the political sense Malta assumed, in particular since Independence, a position of relevance in the seminal ideas which it has sown within the international community. In a physical and real sense Malta transcends the outermost cliffs and enclaves encapsulating its tangible space, and marks its presence, through its communities, in the different continents of the globe.
Present in this hall today, I sense an aura of energy and commitment. Energy to discuss the challenges and opportunities which face us as a nation at home and as a nation living beyond our shores. Commitment to continue to focus on that which distinguishes us as this nation - on our identity and how best to ensure that this continues to develop and transcend the often luring but often shallow nature of folklore.
Your agenda is vast and in itself indicative of the type of exercise you are about to embark upon. Steering away from that designed as an external feature of our culture and identity, this Convention seeks to address real problems. Its focus on the individual and on social problems faced by our communities abroad, is perhaps a poignant reminder that our culture and identity is not only about the festa, or ©ig©ifogu, but is first and foremost about people. For our identity has been built on a sense of engagement towards our fellow citizen, in the consciousness that the spread of solidarity is one of the hallmarks for ensuring human dignity - a dignity we believe should be shared by all.
During these coming days you will be discussing themes which are central to your concerns as emigrants: the elderly, youth, the preservation of culture, language, religion and identity, questions of citizenship. Each topic is as vast as this sea which surrounds us. Often also each topic and issue is as stormy as the waters which enfold our shores. But each topic will surely find that coagulant necessary for specific patterns of partnership to be built and consolidated, so that our sense of identity may continue to envelop a sense of community that has guided our action over the years.
Concerns will doubtless be raised. For this is an exercise which will also point to difficulties in channels of communication and community. You, as representatives of you communities are in a sense taking the lead role in outlying ideas and solutions on how best to strengthen our partnership. Your concerns are also our concerns, and this conference is of great interest for both the Government and public opinion who are sensitive to these needs of this other Malta near abroad.
Yet, you also are conscious of your role as promoters of the needs and interests of our country abroad. Whether through trade or economic issues, cultural links or interests, you are best placed to continue to strengthen this principle of partnership between your communities and our island so that mutual benefit may be gained.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your presence here today is also a reflection of the will of this nation to assist peoples beyond our shores. Because an integral part of our identity is the concept of solidarity. And solidarity knows no boundaries.
True to your roots, many were those of you living abroad who made it their mission to assist in voluntary work, leaving their homes to travel to the most desperate places of the world. They carried with them that distinct compassion and human warmth of a Mediterranean people. Their thorough dedication and commitment is a guiding light for all who want to follow in their paths.
I have proposed the setting up of a national organization which would direct and coordinate all the substantial human efforts in the voluntary field emanating from these Islands, be they lay or religious, in order to achieve a higher degree of effectiveness and due recognition for these sincere acts of brotherly love and sacrifice. I believe that this initiative, Malta Solidarity International, would add to the relevance of the Maltese presence throughout the world and could extend its sphere to competence to individuals and organizations of Maltese origin who undertake charitable and missionary work. This is an important aspect of the “people to people” approach which is essential in bringing nations together.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
From all walks of life, from a number of continents, from different backgrounds, you also have been the active vehicles fostering this bond among nations.
For the most various reasons have you, your fathers and mothers, left these beloved shores. For one simple reason you come back to visit or resettle - because you all know that this is always your home. This is not the renewing of a bond and ties us Maltese all around the world, because the umbilical chord that ties you to this land in the middle of a sea of history has never been severed.
In my various government capacities, I have had the occasion to travel to meet Maltese communities all around the world. I have been able to see the extraordinary ability of the Maltese people to adapt to different environments, learn and assimilate other languages, and integrate into other cultures, seek and maintain new partnerships and lasting relationships. Notwithstanding these facts, it has been their particular ability to retain their distinct identities in the midst of foreign cultures.
It is also an admirable achievement that Maltese communities abroad have participated fully in the development of the societies which have welcomed them. They have been ambassadors of those principles which are required in the weaving of the fabric of multicultural societies.
This facet of the Maltese communities abroad is also a reflection of their identity. In a sense the Maltese identity incorporates and internalizes a number of different cultures with which this Island has interacted over the years. It is an assimilation of diverse patterns of thought of the different nations and peoples which have been present in our Islands. This ability to transcend differences and transform suited facets into a national characteristic, is key to understanding. It is one of the marks which have given to the Maltese community abroad the ability and indeed confidence to build a home away from home.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You are about to embark on an important exercise, the results of which will be felt far beyond the walls of this monument of our history and far beyond the confines of our times.
In seeking to build partnerships you will continue to ask of yourselves what it is that you can do for your country.
Your presence as communities living outside our shores, can be a great opportunity to exploit and enhance links so crucial to consolidating, not only the relationship between us but also between one State and another.
You have a great potential.
In exploiting it you can continue to foster your links with home - and continue to live and evolve your Maltese identity.
With these words of hope and confidence, I welcome you to the Convention of Leaders of Associations of Maltese Abroad and of Maltese Origin.