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Anda Totoreanu, one of the organizers of the forum and a researcher at PATRIR, held the session “National Review of Values-Based Conflicts in Romania”. Her presentation reflects her own research as a mapping analyst for the European Network for Nonviolence and Dialogue (ENND) during the past year.

Anda highlighted the different social conflicts that exist within Romania caused by conservative perceptions, traditional values, wrong assumptions, prejudices, and a lack of mutual understanding.

Through polarization, black and white mentalities harden, where the “us“ excludes “them.“ One consequence of this is that certain groups are more and more marginalized and then excluded from society. Within Romania, there exist the following issues, amongst others:

Gender role & sexual orientation: Gender stereotypes like “Women were born to wash dishes“ and domestic violence are unfortunately daily conflicts within the country. Likewise, there exists a conservative conception about the “traditional family.“ The latter is shown by the vote of the Romanian parliament beginning of the month to constitutionally define family as being based on marriage between a man and a woman.

Inter-ethic & inter-cultural relations: Between Romanians, Hungarians and the Roma exist quite often tensions. Apparent is the marginalization within the latter group, who live for instance here in Cluj-Napoca at Pata Rât, near garbage dump. Moreover are negative perceptions towards refugees and asylum seekers, caused by the one-sided reporting of the media or politicians.

Civic responsibility & cultural protest: The nation-wide protest that took place recently in Romania considering the proposition of relaxing the anti-corruption-law divided the society (government supporters vs. non-partisans). The protests afterwards were not followed by dialogue, but by conflicts rooted in hate speech instead.

Other controversial subjects and conflicts range from the concern regarding the environment and its protection to income inequalities, poverty and social exclusion.

What can we do to face such a black and white mentality? The participants were asked in the end to come up with their own ideas, to start within themselves, and to reflect upon their own biases. The session concluded, that we need to create a space for more dialogue between groups in order to tear down the walls caused by stereotyping and misconceptions.

Freya Tasch