Please read the details in the Final Declaration.
Dialogue between "extremists" and "vulnerables"
The Budapest Centre for Dialogue and Mass Atrocities Prevention organized a series of personal dialogue processes between groups of two persons from radical rightists/traditional nationalist citizens (in the public discourse "extreme national radicals"), on the one hand, and from the Jewish, LGBTQ and Roma community (in the public discourse "vulnerable social groups"), on the other; each individual took part in their private capacity.
The aim of the initiative was to make some headway towards defusing hatred between radicals and the Jewish, LGBTQ, and Roma communities, prevent extremism and promote peaceful cohabitation.
First and foremost, the participants stressed the importance and benefits of the opportunity per se to get connected and enabled to communicate with each other directly. Some, however, opted out of the process.
During the dialogue process, participants exchanged views, explained and clarified their positions, also shared personal experiences, and defused fundamental misunderstandings in an open and honest manner, without taboos, stigmatization, or demonization.
The initial resentment diminished considerably, gradually giving way to a genuine interest in each other. The relations between them, originally hostile and conflictual, have evolved in a positive direction and undergone an unexpectedly positive change in most cases.
Participants experienced first-hand that it is possible and could result in surprising and positive outcomes when people with widely different, even conflicting views engage in personal dialogue within a given and supportive framework. Today, they understand better what the other people are saying and why they say it; also they have a more nuanced view on the others and on themselves and have become more empathetic in general.
The dialogue process helped to reduce the prejudices of the participants, to understand better the objective causes of the conflicts between communities and opened up their own bubbles of thought and discourse. Moreover, through the dialogue sessions, the participants gradually created personal conditions for a joint reflection on pathways to more peaceful cohabitation.
Equipped with these experiences and have become aware of the social conditions, tensions, and potential conflicts in Hungary, the participants find it important to continue the dialogue on a broader scale.
They also see the need and value of involving some more influential representatives of their communities in order to amplify the dialogue process more widely.
As one of the ways forward, they also consider establishing “dialogue circles” and launching a dialogue process with some focus on practical consequences and.
Participants also hold that a follow-up of the dialogue process, after at least six dialogue rounds per circle, could lead to positive results which exceed the level of individual behavior and impact the community as a whole.
This document and the given personal statements reflect the collective views of all those that have completed this process.
"During the project, I think everyone has gone through an indescribable development. I can only make a try to portray it: from the point of sitting timidly in front of the cameras in the very beginning, knowing after all what sort and sharp persons I will be communicating with in the coming period, to the point in the last few face-to-face meetings when I was greeting my 'dialogue partners' as friends.
And for all that I did not feel I have to persuade anyone of anything or forcibly have to change my own opinion.
To put my thoughts in a nutshell, I would say that I have gone from being someone who thought I was empathetic to actually becoming empathetic.
I have come to realize that the future lies not in total consensus, but in not trying to invalidate and cancel each other's opinions and experiences.
Overall, progress requires not only debate but even more importantly needs personal dialogue. This, of course, also necessitates above all a safe space, i.e. a well-thought-through setting of dialogue and a facilitating medium, which the current project has provided and further developed in a sophisticated manner.
I would very much like to see people from my community that are more influential and important than myself, being able to sit down for a dialogue like this in the future, and if the project could be of use for society in this way."
- "It was very interesting to observe how much different the dialogue is when a meeting like this is completely confidential. How much easier it is to find common ground when you don't have to carry the perceived or real stereotypes of your social organization on your back, but you can actually behave as an individual.
This kind of exchange of ideas brought people with quite different mindsets much closer together, it was more an exchange and a debate than a struggle or fight."
- "The importance and value of dialogue changed a lot for me personally during this process.
My initial attitude, which I thought was really a desire for dialogue, turned out to be rather a desire for revelation, justice, and compensation. It took some time and the others for me to realize that dialogue is not what I originally had in my mind.
In the course of the process, I sometimes found some commonalities, not much though, with traditionalist peers, who view things radically differently, while I found differences with those from my own group. I learned to accept their views and opinions without taking them as a personal attack. This way I can save myself a lot of headaches and anxiety in the future.
The personal openness of the participants and sufficient time are essential for dialogue, but when those are given, the questions of the others have a healing effect and can become quite intimate by way of the generated trust.
One thought that I took away from the process was: ‘No problem if you think the other person is stupid, but walk the walk to see if you really think that!’ If I follow that path, very few will be stupid."
- “It's a strange feeling when you share your own personal - and indeed personal - memories of life events with someone whom you not only didn't know before the dialogue process but from whom you seemed to be separated ‘by an entirely different universe’. Despite the distance, it is a very productive skill to be able to frankly share experiences and observations which in turn opens up a dialogue process that can form the basis for a better understanding of each other. And understanding is essential for any dialogue to take place, which certainly reduces tensions even on issues where there is almost irreconcilable disagreement.”
“Among many other things, the series of conversations has fully confirmed my conviction that dialogue or even moderated debate between groups and individuals with views that seem oppositional to an almost unbridgeable extent, should be a "must" for anyone who wants to express a stark public opinion on any social topics. For without this, one can almost only rely on the image and information presented in the media about the group in question, which is very little.
In this series, besides better understanding and getting to know each other's opinions, I have learned a lot about the motivations of others, and why they think the way they do and vice versa, an experience that I think is invaluable. To have such conversations, of course, you have to step out of your comfort zone, out of your opinion bubble, and that really demands a lot of effort, it's a difficult task. That is why most people do not even venture to sit down with 'opposing parties' for any kind of discussion.
I would particularly highlight the importance of ‘informal’ discussions after the facilitated dialogues, which obviously, after due time, allowed for a really relaxed dialogue and exchange of views, all in such a way that, in my judgement, no one needed to give up any of their previous views, but could see and ‘assess’ those belonging to other groups or their views in a much more understanding, experienced and sympathetic way.”
The Budapest Centre avails itself of this opportunity to express gratitude for the gracious grant and the support provided by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Central European University respectively.
Budapest, 30 November 2022.