Maltese prime minister attacks rise of ‘intolerant populism’
He also highlighted how the discrimination experienced by LGBTIQ communities in the Commonwealth was a “blot” on the organisation.
Malta’s prime minister has given a damming verdict on the state of world affairs, attacking the rise of intolerant populism and the ever-present threat of terrorism in a speech to mark Commonwealth Day.
Joseph Muscat’s frank assessment during an address to the Westminster Abbey congregation, which included the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, may be interpreted by some as a criticism of populist politicians, from US leader Donald Trump to Dutch right-winger Geert Wilders.
The Maltese prime minister also highlighted how the discrimination experienced by LGBTIQ communities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning) in the Commonwealth was a “blot” on the organisation.
Mr Muscat, chair-in-office of the Commonwealth, told the Commonwealth service congregation, which included the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and activist and singer Annie Lennox, that “two factors” were contributing to making this a “very dangerous world indeed”.
There was, on the one hand, “terrorism, embedded in perverse distortions of religious belief; on the other hand, the emergence of an intolerant populism that feeds on the lack of knowledge and on racism.
“Both of them shun reason, promote fanaticism and actively commit or indirectly incite violence.
“Both of them are the result of political and economic models that have patently failed in as much they are insufficiently inconclusive and inclusive.”
Mr Muscat asked what the Commonwealth could do and said the family of nations’ strength lay in its relationships with one another, which had not been easy but had known “pride, joy and communion” but also “blood, sweat and tears”.
The Maltese prime minister went on to say: “I want to single out the respect for LGBTIQ persons – the lack of it – in the remarkable number of our countries is arguably a considerable blot in our family of nations’ standing.”
Mr Muscat’s speech was based around the organisation’s theme for this year – a peace-building Commonwealth.
He said: “There can be no solid and lasting international and national peace under conciliation unless it is built on the consciousness of millions of individuals who value their own individual dignity.
“Individuals who do not value their own individual dignity, do not value the dignity of others, those who do not uphold these values, tend to fuse into multitudes that make up the mass base of extremist movements.”
He stressed there was “strength in the face of adversity” and “great generosity” and praised how nations including his own had come together to fight fascism during the Second World War.
But he highlighted a current problem affecting the world – people fleeing their homes due to war or trying to find a better life.
On a lighter note, after the service with hymns sung and prayers said in honour of the Commonwealth, Harry met a group of schoolchildren close to the abbey.
Tiya Thornton, 12, from Francis Holland School, in central London, and her classmates joked that the ginger-haired prince looked like singer Ed Sheeran
She said: “Harry said to us, ‘I’m the real Prince Harry’, and when someone said he looked like Ed, he said, ‘I know Ed Sheeran’.”