Tolerance is a gift we choose to give, but I understand the objection to being tolerated. It’s a passive pastime. But it does not have to be so. November 16 is World Tolerance Day; you can decide if you want to share the gift of active tolerance. I hope that you will.
Today, intolerance has led to wars and persecution that has left 65.6 million people displaced. 22.5 million of them are refugees. Europe speaks of being tolerant but has only accommodated 17% of those displaced.
Britain’s response to the refugee crisis has been inadequate, and animosity toward multiculturalism is rising. Ignorance and fear often cause intolerance, but it goes unchecked.
Tolerance is the ‘willingness to accept behaviour and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them (Cambridge Dictionary). And the problem with that is it’s pretty passive. It does not help to overcome intolerance.
So, we need active tolerance. Er, What? Active Tolerance. It is the glue that will hold humanity together.
The tolerant among us usually have a ‘agree to differ’ approach. It does not win hearts and minds. Nor, can I respect a view that I disagree with or know to be factually incorrect.
But I can respect the person’s humanity while I perform my duty to challenge the view I do not share. For to respect another person is, to be honest with them and have difficult conversations.
Instead of agreeing not to agree, we should seek to enlighten and enrich through an exchange of ideas. That is how we make progress.
‘Active tolerance, performed correctly, requires that each actively attempts to understand viewpoints that are different from his/her own. No one comes from the same place. No one has the same life experiences. We are all individuals, and, if we don’t share our experiences, we cannot learn from one another’ (Thoughts On Liberty).
Active Tolerance Tools
When confronted with an escalation of intolerance around us, we must all be part of the solution. Therefore, to create a more inclusive society, we have to discuss our fears.
So, active tolerance requires work. It means engaging with those who are intolerant, and that can mean us. Personal awareness is part of it. And we must also educate ourselves through credible sources of information.
If we don’t division will escalate. It will mean more hate attacks like that on Muslim woman Zaynab Hussein who a driver deliberately struck with a car.
The world would be a better place with active tolerance. It allows us to create room for everyone and their perspectives. It does not demonize ‘other’ as the Telegraph front page has done with MPs who prefer to stay in Europe. It opens debate challenging intolerance through constructive dialogue, not passive acceptance.
The gift of active tolerance is in your hands; the only question is, do you want to give it?
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