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Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa


Welcome by the President of the Republic to the Arab Ambassadors accredited in Portugal
Belém Palace, 12 May 2016
partilhar video #106899

Secretary of State for Internationalisation,
Madam Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Your Excellencies,
Dear friends,

I appreciate the words that Madam Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco has just addressed to me, in her capacity as leader of the group of Ambassadors from the Arab countries.

I would like to start by conveying to you the particular satisfaction it gave me to receive the letter that Madam Ambassador Karima Benyaich, sent me about two months ago on behalf of this group present here today, telling me of the desire and commitment of each of you to work with Portugal, with a view to developing and intensifying bilateral relations. I am convinced that our meeting may somehow contribute to this purpose.

As you will recall, I outlined early on my aim of regularly meeting with the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Lisbon, in order to maintain a constructive relationship and a close dialogue with everyone. It is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome you here to Belém.

But this first meeting will also, in some way, be a tribute to the historical, genetic, cultural and scientific legacy of the Arab peoples who have passed through this land.

We are heirs of the first Arab astrolabes, which contributed so much to the progress of the Discoveries.

We are the heirs of açorda, saffron, the alfândega customs house, the alfarrabista bookshop, just a few of the words that have enriched our lexicon.

And we have a very rich and diverse genetic heritage, which also comprises a legacy from these peoples.

If today we are what we are, and if today we believe that we have a strong penchant for building bridges and for the dialogue between peoples, it is also due in part to this Arab heritage, to which I here pay homage.

Bridges and dialogue. That's what we advocate. Not a division between us and the others. That's what I wanted to stress when I participated in an ecumenical ceremony in the Lisbon mosque on the day of my inauguration. It was only a sign, but it seemed to be particularly important at a time when a narrative developed by certain groups that advocate division and hatred has been gaining ground.

It is a narrative that has to be counteracted. Silence carries a very high price, not only for the Arab world, but also for Europe. It is time to speak up. It is time to say enough is enough to religious extremism and violence. The time is now, not later.

To paraphrase Nelson Mandela:
“It will forever remain an accusation and a challenge to all men and women of conscience, that it took us as long as it has before all of us stood up to say ‘enough is enough’”.

This is an enormous challenge, I know. But if we do not meet it, if we do not counteract an extremist narrative of religions, if the arguments that appeal to violence are not dismantled, then we will also not overcome the other challenges: the challenges of international security, the challenges of the migratory and refugee movements, the economic challenges.

This is not just a fight that belongs to the Arab world. It is a fight of the Arab countries, of Europe and of the world.

This is not a fight waged with weapons. It is a contest of ideas, in which words and education are the means to build a better world.

Therefore, I emphasise here today the initiative promoted by Jorge Sampaio, a former President of Portugal, to support Syrian university students. These are the initiatives that make all the difference.

“Enough is enough”.


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