On 15 April 2014, I spoke to Sneza Dimic, who works for the Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organisation in Budapest, Hungary, to learn more about the organisation’s approach of using sports as a means to foster inclusive education and combat racism.
SIRIUS Network: Why was the Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Organisation set up?
The foundation was set up in 1982 by Gibril Deen who realised that there is a need to protect minority groups, not only in Hungary, but all over the world. Mr. Deen, who is our current president, had the vision to support immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees coming to Hungary. In the beginning people were mostly from Africa, but today there are a lot of different nationalities coming to us, from Egypt, Afghanistan, India… Everyone who comes to us can get help.
How does the organisation contribute to inclusive education?
We offer legal counselling and language courses to migrants and refugees. We also do cultural and educational projects as well as public events that focus on promoting tolerance among youngsters. At the moment, this is one of the most important dimensions of the organisation and we specifically focus on sports programmes. Mahatma Gandhi is member of the Hungarian Football Federation and we are striving to combat racism and discrimination, not just against migrants, but also against other minority groups such as Roma in Hungary. We established a football team, called African Stars, and all the players are immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers. They play friendly games with other teams, both Hungarian and international. We work with the support of the Hungarian Football Federation and organised, for instance, a week where we went into stadiums and promoted our project “Red Card against Racism” where all the players and visitors would hold up a red card in the stadium.
We also go into high schools with a mixed student population and offer courses and trainings. Our human rights education trainers help to create awareness about the process asylum seekers go through and more generally to develop respect towards migrants. In addition, we also use these trainings to promote understanding among students themselves and teach them to respect each other no matter if they are Hungarian, Slovakian, Romani or from Africa.
We are a non-for-profit organisation with four people currently working in the office. Our president is originally from Gambia, but now also has Hungarian citizenship. Most people volunteering in projects and supporting us are from Africa. Most of them have also naturalized by now.
How do you reach out to migrants in Hungary?
We have a great cooperation with all of the refugee centres in Hungary, who contact us and inform refugees about our organisation. Our outreach and the language that we use to get our message across depend very much on the audience we want to reach. For example, when we go to schools we have a different approach than when we campaign in football stadiums.
What are the main aims of the organisation?
Our goal is to fight against discrimination and intolerance and provide access to legal counselling, and language courses. Our method to fight racism and discrimination is through sports and education.
When people play football together, you can see that different nationalities and different teams can work together. We want to show that differences are not that big. The African Star team is very unique and an example of how we can use sports to promote democracy and tolerance. They show that football can be a great bridge to get people together.
What are the main challenges you are facing at the moment?
Hungary has the highest rate of hate crimes against minorities in Europe, which is a great challenge. Also, everyone coming to our office has their individual life story and different needs. Every story is a new challenge for us. In addition, we are a non-for-profit organisation and always have to find new ways of securing financial support of our projects.