Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has slammed hateful and racist comments that surfaced on social media after the Filipino community held an annual Christian celebration in Marsascala on Sunday.

"These comments reflect badly on those who make them and do not represent the beliefs of Maltese and Gozitan people of good faith," he wrote on Facebook on Monday.

"If these people [Filipinos] are good enough to be carers, accountants and waiters among us, nothing should stop them from living their lives in peace among us."

Hate and xenophobic comments began to surface online after the large Filipino community celebrated the feast of Santo Niño with a baby Jesus procession and a colourful parade, which included dancing and distribution of traditional food.

Hundreds of people turned up for the event, which also included Mass at St Anne parish church.

"They'd better pray to Santo Niño to find them a better life away from this country," one man wrote.

"Soon the Indians will have their own celebrations in honour of Saint Smell (San Inten). The country is finished. We've become the last priority in our own country."

Another echoed the same sentiment and said the facts were clear - "Norman Lowell was right".

Malta does not belong to the Maltese people anymore, said another one. The Maltese people were being forced to deal with a road closure in their own country, just because "foreigners" wanted to hold a celebration.

A commenter said many were not necessarily bothered by the event itself. The problem, he argued, was that this was just the first in a series of other events which would overtake Maltese culture and traditions in a future in which Maltese people were doomed to be outnumbered by 'foreigners'.

Dozens slam the hateful rhetoric

Dozens slammed the hateful rhetoric, arguing the celebration was not even that different from Maltese religious and cultural events.

This was a Christian celebration with a statue of baby Jesus, resembling Catholic Maltese traditions, they said. It was a peaceful celebration of people who are sustaining the economy and looking after the sick and the elderly and who have every right to celebrate their own culture.

Many said they even preferred the Filipino celebration over the "sweaty" village feast marches in which "most people are drunk" and hurl swear words at one another.

Others argued it was hypocritical to post hateful comments on the celebration - after all, thousands of emigrants in Maltese communities in Australia often take to the streets with religious statues in processions that resemble local village feasts.

Keeping traditions alive

In his Facebook post on Monday, Byron Camilleri recalled how he enjoyed the religious celebrations of Maltese communities in Canada and the US when he visited them over the past months.

"They kept the Maltese traditions strong with food, language, marching bands and even statues of the saints," he said, adding the Filipino community was similarly celebrating a religious feast peacefully. 

The feast of Santo Niño, also known as the Sinulog, is both a religious and cultural event held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, the Philippines. It honours Santo Nino de Cebu, a statue of the Child Jesus that is believed to have miraculous powers.

It is one of the most important festivals in the Philippines and is attended by thousands of people from all over the world.

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