Spanish king recognized for tolerance


(JTA) — Spain’s King Juan Carlos I was recognized for his efforts to build a tolerant society in his country.

The European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation on Monday awarded the king with its first-ever European Medal of Tolerance at the Zarzuela Palace, his main residence, "in recognition of His Majesty’s lifelong dedication and devotion to tolerance and political reconciliation."

The council’s co-chairs — former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress — awarded the medal.

A nongovernmental organization, the council is comprised of former heads of European states, Nobel Peace Prize laureates and other individuals renowned for their achievements in promoting tolerance.

“Moral leadership symbolized by the recipient of our European Medal of Tolerance is especially significant at a time when tolerance appears to be waning in Europe in favor of racism and xenophobia,” Kwasniewski said. “King Juan Carlos personally led the transformation from dictatorship to democracy in Spain while uniting the people through a very difficult period.”

“In Europe, there are major changes, whether it is the ongoing economic crisis or changes within the European Union, which the forces of intolerance are utilizing for their benefit, and we need leadership to steer us through these challenging times.” Kantor said. “We need a strong and powerful leadership in Europe today to stand against the growing tide of extremism and hate.” 

The council is calling for the institution of a European Day of Tolerance, and to work against ethnic, religious and cultural discrimination.

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