There’s no shortage of interesting, often seemingly made up, holidays out there – nearly every day on the calendar is a celebration of something. Unfortunately, we do have a shortage of some things in our world today. And one shortage in particular seems to be getting worse every passing day – or maybe it just seems that way on the news.
But between the ongoing conflicts and strife in Ukraine and Russia, Hamas and Israel, Republican and Democrat, Christians and Muslims and Jews – it seems appropriate that we set aside a day to recognize that we have differences, but those differences don’t have to divide us if we don’t let them.
We should mention also that the International Day for Tolerance isn’t one of those “every-day-a-celebration-Internet-calendar-memes-on-social-media-driven” holidays.
In 1996, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the 16th of November as International Day for Tolerance. It was intended to battle against the tribalism that had already begun dividing our globe.
The UN’s assertion was that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference to others with conflicting cultures, customs, beliefs, religions and national identities. It’s not intended to justify horrendous acts, but to embrace all cultures and forms of expression, seeking to make our world better.
“Tolerance recognizes the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.”
In so many ways our world is becoming both larger and smaller. The purpose of the International Day of Tolerance is to help us find ways to coexist without sacrificing the history, culture, and ideas that makes each of us special and unique.
Tolerance, in the United Nations definition, is embracing our diversity as one of our planet’s greatest strengths. Indeed, the UN leadership considers it an essential part of their work for peace, conflict prevention, democratization, and human rights. The hope is that embracing such tolerance would lead to more dialogue and less extremism.
We remember that Jesus taught us to love our neighbors and even our enemies. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If it is possible, in as much as depends on you, try to live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
In addition to the UN pursuing tolerance in legal systems, education methods, and freedom of shared information, several groups have developed their own ways of celebrating the International Day of Tolerance.
For example, Drammen, Norway began the "Universal Tolerance Cartoon Festival" in 2013. The Canadian Red Cross uses the day to coordinate education programs to prevent violence and abuse.
Some schools take the opportunity to talk about diversity and make art or tell stories that promote becoming more connected to your community, talking to a neighbor who comes from a different background, and building relationships across potential divides.
So, take a moment today to enjoy the diversity of our world, our community, our neighborhood, and maybe even make a new friend. Make the world a better place – even just for one person.
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