Paul’s thoughts on ISFiT 2017 and discrimination, the festival’s main theme

Words by Paul Emanuel Kalle, a participant of ISFiT 2017.

466 students from 107 countries met in Trondheim to make the world a better place

“It’s a fallacy that walls and fences erode our obligations to other people’s rights.Walls within the human family in a small and distressed planet, in a globalized world, with the largest population of young people that the world has ever seen, such walls and borders, they are untrue, they are irresponsible and they are unconscionable. There is no country on this planet, at this time, in such an interconnected world, that can rightfully stand apart, stay silent or not be at the table of rightful solutions.”
These revolutionary words from Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore, said during the first of seven plenary sessions, show the necessity and the spirit of ISFiT 2017. This year’s topic “Discrimination, why?” could not be more up to date than today, considering the world events happening around us. Discrimination is still happening. Today. Around us. In many different faces and dimensions. Discrimination because of disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, religion, origin, culture, social class and many more. The thriving point is that a person nowadays might be discriminated several times, in several different dimensions.
Looking at discrimination against LGBTQI, according to Matt Beard, CEO of the American registered LGBTQIA rights organization “All Out”, 40% of the people in the world live in countries where being gay is illegal, 400 million are living in countries where gay people are endangered by the death penalty and very soon there could be a new law in the United States of America of the protection of the 1st amendment allowing shop leaders to put up signs stating “No gays allowed”.

Not only do we still have a highly discriminative situation against the LGBTQI community but also in regards to indigenous communities. Chief Wilton Lilltlechild told his tremendously sad story about being displaced from his family, put in a residential school, thousands of miles away from home and being taken away his name: “Your name was taken from you and [you were] given a number. My name in school was number 65. 65 come here. 65 pick that up. 65 you dummy, why don’t you do this. You see what happens to a little boy when you do that?”
Another dimension of discrimination and intersectionality can be seen in the situation in the Middle East. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi stated that “Unfortunately the region in the Middle East is burning in the flames of war and the route of it lies in the lack of democracy in the region. […] and be sure that there will be tranquility in the region once Saudi Arabia and Iran are becoming democratic.” Furthermore, when she was asked about Donald Trump’s influence on the region she stated that “Donald Trump’s presidency has not only failed to better the situation in the middle east but has made it far worse. And I was very sorry to see the travel ban against 7 mainly Muslim countries. […] Am I more a danger to world peace than Donald Trump?!” Here one can see intersectionality since people are discriminated in respect of their political rights, their origin, and their religion.

This is why it was more than necessary that 466 students from 107 countries met in Trondheim under the motto “Ten days without discrimination” in order to discuss how to make the world a less discriminative place to live.
Through a great mixture of events such as art exhibitions, concerts, parties, a project day, the attendance of each participant at smaller workshop groups looking at the theme from different angles as well as inspiring talks with experts from all over the world this festival is fostering intercultural understanding and exchange. Topics of the workshops were among others family, health care, law, and policy or environment. The project day gave the participants the opportunity to learn new skills on how to implement the results of the discussions.
While explaining the concept of a student festival to others, it can be either understood as bone-dry academic discussions between uprising members of the academia or an alcohol soaked music event, this gathering represents something different. A multicultural meeting bursting with inspiration and motivation to make the world a better place.

ISFiT is a place where the world is coming closer together. It was fascinating to see how people from many different countries with many different backgrounds became friends. One important part of this intercultural convergence is the fact the participants are hosted by local residents triggering a multiplication of the ISFiT spirit and the intercultural communication towards the local society and into the world.
While there were many sad, depressive and pessimistic descriptions of the present, there were also a lot of expressions of hope. The Secretary-General of the World Council of Churches stating that he has hope that we will be able to find a way to live together or as Kate Gilson said by referring to human rights: “These principles they don’t prevent our diversity, they establish it. They don’t limit our culture, they protect it.They don’t stop our debate, they empower it.They don’t beige us out, they don’t reduce us to a preferred human being. Human rights create the space in which each and every one of us is entitled to dignity […] The message of human rights is that we can transform society. That we have a right to transform society.”