The IFOR Secretariat responding to requests from local activists has joined with local community organizer Omar Ba to launch the formation of a new IFOR group in Flanders. Omar Ba, a native of Senegal, and long time resident of Antwerp, Belgium is a well-known voice within Flanders on matters of multiculturalism and social inclusion.
Initially, Ba became acquainted with IFOR during the speaking tour of FOR-USA member Anthony Grimes in the Netherlands. Ba has been appointed by the Secretariat to the International Advisory Council of the IFOR Beloved Communities Project. Ongoing conversations between Ba and the IFOR International Coordinator about the challenges and needs in the Flemish speaking parts of Belgium and the needs among African communities living in Europe more broadly helped shape the Beloved Communities Project.
Ba is a historian and consultant on diversity policies and diasporic transnational networks. He is a former member of the Belgium Federal roundtable on “interculturality” organized by the Ministry of Equality of Chances in 2010-2011 where he participated in the publication of a report that recommended diversity policies for Belgium. He also was for many years a key spokesperson for the African communities in Flanders and representative of the European Network Against Racism coordination Belgium. He served as member of the COMRAF a diaspora advisory council in the African Museum of Tervuren which accompanied the Museum through its process of decolonization.
Ba will also serve as an advisor for the IFOR International Secretariat on the UN Decade for People of African Descent. He has been actively involved in developing civil society and transnational networks to generalize the UN Decade for people of African Descent in Europe and Africa.
October 22, Ba organized an opening event in Antwerp featuring activists from the Black Lives Matters Movement in the United States who came as guests of IFOR during the fall launch of the Beloved Communities Project. Rev. Nyle Fort and Derecka Purnell spoke to a packed room about their experiences organizing against police brutality in the United States. Jérôme Peraya, a member of the IFOR’s Representative Consultative Committee and leader within IFOR’s mainly French speaking branch in Belgium, Agir Pour La Paix based in Brussels was also at the event in Antwerp.
Ba says that "Like other parts of the world, society in Flanders is socially and culturally transforming. People from different parts of the world live together in big cities with little interaction. A peaceful and positive approach of religious and cultural diversity is one of the biggest challenges in the E.U, in Belgium generally and in Flanders particularly. There should be many reasons to embrace the added value that an inclusive and divers society could mean but there is still a long way to go. IFOR Flanders wants to unite all organizations and individuals who want to promote social and political peace and mutual understanding. This approach will enable us to develop a positive narrative through activities, common reflexions ,actions and transnational contacts with different fellow organizations in Belgium, and throughout the E.U. Furthermore we want to Build sustainable bridges between different Diasporic communities to promote positive intercultural interactions taking into account what the different stakeholders have been achieving up to date. IFOR Flanders is being optimistic about the future and hopes that its contribution to the promotion of all aspects of peacebuilding will have impact Flanders in a significant way"
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For more information about Antwerp and Omar Ba’s work against the violence of racism and discrimination can be found here:
edited from original post 3 November 2015