Understand and Tolerate: One People
If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world.
Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)
On the 21th of September the world celebrated the International Day of Peace. A day where citizens of the earth are encouraged to lay down their arms, animosities, antagonisms, to come together in peaceful repose for 1 day of 355 days to become what we were meant to be: a planet filled with tolerance, kindness and, yes, even love. The special day of the year provides an opportunity for individuals, organisations, and nations to create practical acts of peace.
Ironically, this new decade witnesses the culmination of man’s greed, evil and transgression against his fellow man, the planet where he finds life and worse yet, even against himself.
As a somewhat negative outcome of the Arab Spring that caught the world, and especially the Middle East by storm, the 18 month long Syrian civil war has proved itself to be an example of one government’s disdain for its people met with defiance not to be broken by authority. The body count is reportedly in the 23,000 count, yet it still pushes on. Violent protests in over 20 countries lead to the destruction of property and lives by angry Muslims, such as the death of the United States Ambassador to Libya over the anti-Muslim film. The protests, deaths and damage is clear evidence of what is to come if religious tolerance, or at least tolerance in itself, is not practised. And on the 23rd of September, 2012 as Christians in Bauchi, Nigeria tried to practice their fundamental right to freedom of religion, the religious sect known as Boko Haram struck again killing at least 2 people and injuring 48 more.
Tolerance, or the lack thereof, has shaped history and how we are as groups and individuals in the world today. From the Nazis to the KKK; from gay bashing to gender inequality in the workplace; from the genocides in Rwanda to Cambodia to Somali and those yet to be documented, we see, in one way or the other, a certain lack of tolerance and acceptance for our fellow man. We fail to realise that we are all connected and influence by each other’s actions and inactions.
The fact is, in case anyone, especially our world leaders missed it, is that we live in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-social world. Everyone is different and we should stop looking at the word “different” as if it is a bad thing. You don’t have to agree with everything someone who has a different ideology or religion believes in, but that’s the thing about tolerance: it’s about accepting that the other person has a different view on things. You don’t have to agree on their views, but understanding that person and his point of view, in other words, putting yourself in their shoes, may just make you think differently on certain issues.
For instance, the recent protests by the Muslim world over the anti-Islamic film have sparked solidarity between the Muslim and Christians followers in certain countries, especially Egypt where Coptic Christians declared their support and condemned “all sorts of contempt or disdain against any religion, as well as to the sowing of sedition between people who embrace different religions”. Even in Nigeria, a nation notorious for its corrupt leaders, thieving politicians, rising insecurity and depths of social, religious and ethnic suspicious, mistrust and killings, Christians in the northern state of Kano, where the terrorist sect Boko Haram has targeted and bombed churches on numerous occasions, have resolved to walk by their Muslim brothers and sisters in protest against the film.
Gandhi said we have to be the change we want to see in the world. If you want to see peace, be peaceful; if you want to be treated with love and respect, treat others with love and respect. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: now that is the Golden Rule. We are one body, one people. Act