An all-inclusive society where people live in harmony with equal opportunities is what every Bahraini citizen aspires to.
Hearing the remarkable words: “We do not want development efforts to only benefit a small category of citizens, we want to give equal opportunities to everyone” from our Crown Prince at the recent 2016 Government Forum gave any Bahraini who reads between the lines of these words a renewed sense of hope for the future.
Bahraini youth have for a long time sought to express their concerns about the economic, social and political challenges they face. Many Bahrainis argue that for decades it has only been a certain segment of society who were considered to be privileged – a certain segment who come from wealthy families and those who consider themselves to be among an elite.
Others fell victim to the sectarian attitudes and behaviour in our society, not only during the post-2011 period, but way before that. In some government institutions which are run by Shia, priority for employment and opportunities almost exclusively goes to Shia employees – and vice versa with Sunni-led institutions.
Meanwhile, in a few notable institutions run by professional government officials, evidence of sectarianism was negligible and everyone was given equal opportunities.
Opportunities should be given to all citizens irrespective of their background, sect or historic presence in the Kingdom. As we attempt to create a democracy of our own, we should move past family titles, tribal and sectarian attitudes and non-merit-based employment which led the country into social turmoil and economic stagnation.
Our culture and values, religions and sects should be respected; however they should not be the starting point for our career paths and economic future. We cannot build a future of self-dependence and economic prosperity if we are bound to a limited mindset where priority goes to people of our own tribes, faiths when it comes to employment and opportunities in our country.
It might be unrealistic to think that Bahrainis can give up these norms immediately. However, a small step forward by one of our leaders in acknowledging the problem and pledging to address it is a valuable step in the right direction.
The privileged segments of society obviously never want their privileges to be taken away from them. Likewise, those who are sectarian will never want to live in a non-sectarian environment, as this takes them out of their comfort zone and forces them to be tolerant towards those who think and act differently.
However, change takes time. We all have to play a role and sign up to this vision of an inclusive and progressive Bahrain so as to move forward as a nation, hand in hand towards a more developed and democratic Bahrain that provides equal opportunities and a brighter future for all its youth despite their family names, sects, ethnicity or nationality background.
Bahrain can consider itself blessed in having a Crown Prince who is continually in the vanguard of encouraging reform and progress. We hope that his call for greater social justice and opportunity will meet with support from across all segments of our society.