A The message of the conference was clear since the opening, when the Coordinator Dr Milan Hosta, director of the SPOLINT Institute of sport development, welcomed the participants: “Discrimination and intolerance are mother and father, violence is the son. Anytime we witness discrimination and intolerance, fear and violence, we should react, especially in sport”. Powerful was also the speech of Dr Boro Štrumbelj, Director for sport at the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport: “We should be aware that Europe was promoter of human rights, but also the place where the first and second world wars started. Sport is important because is visible to many people, so we should have zero tolerance policies in any event”. Interesting also the approach of Miha Lobnik, Advocate of the principle of equality in Slovenia: “It is not only about sanctioning, but about positive approach, about identifying champions and role models to approach the problems in positive way”.
The theory is known: sport can be a tool of social change. But in reality, the European sky looks more and more cloudy: in many countries, instability, populism and nationalism are growing. Many campaigns and initiatives aimed by promoting social inclusion and human rights in/through sport crush on a crucial barrier: how to spread the word? How to go beyond the network of activists and partners already engaged and involved? Such messages need young, open-minded, tolerant, energetic and cosmopolitan people. But how to reach and engage them?
The Conference’s answer was to invite the Erasmus students: young people, engaged in a unique experience composed by learning, experiencing, opening their mind and developing themselves as students, professionals, citizens and people. They shared their thoughts on the Conference and on the Erasmus-initiative: "I don't know if I have enough information compared to the other participants, I don't know if I speak English well enough to express myself, but I have learned a lot, also if I don't know precisely when I will be able to use what I learned". "I feel to be privileged: once upon a time it was not possible to gather together youngsters from 12 countries around a table, also for a beer together. There aren't many difference among us: everyone smile, all the people can smile. Of course, there are differences, we have different opinions, but we are not so different: we accept, understand and respect each others". "The Erasmus Student Network is about tolerance, is made by open-minded people that discovered new countries, got new ideas, extended their network".
Maybe they don't really understand why were at the conference and what to do with the learning outcomes. But for sure, they will bring the inputs with them. When they will be be sport leaders, they will hopefully remember that sport can be also a strong tool to affirm human rights, to promote social inclusion, dialogue and understanding. At the end of the day, as sport can gather together different people and providing them with similar feelings, also the Erasmus experience does it.
In an European society who is getting aged, close and afraid, the Erasmus generation looks like a signal of openness, energy, hope and enthusiasm. A cross-border network worth to engage in any initiative aimed by promoting tolerance, inclusion, dialogue and understanding, also in/through sport. In facts, if we can see populism, nationalism and instability as bigger and bigger clouds across the European sky, the Erasmus generation could be a bride ray of sun towards a better future.