Tolerance means accepting and valuing differences between people, appreciating that these differences enrich them. Tolerance acknowledges the vastness of reality and cherishes the many human faces of that reality. When we are tolerant we watch and listen and seek to discover how the many pieces fit together to make a wonderful whole. We are able to delight in the otherness of strangers and our intimate companions, knowing that our own lives would be less rich if everyone were more like us.
Tolerance as a skill and an attitude to life has become essential for the very survival of humanity. One of the fallouts of the much discussed globalization process is the demand to meet, work and live with people of totally different cultures, ethnicity and backgrounds. How one manages this heterogeneity of cultures and life styles is very crucial for the survival of humanity. In 1995 when UNESCO declared the year as a year of Tolerance, the purpose indeed was to bring to light the high levels of intolerance manifested all over the world. UNESCO called for education for tolerance to counter the influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others. The most significant thing about the whole exercise was the acceptance of the fact that the diversity of our world's many religions, languages, cultures and ethnicities is not a pretext for conflict, but is a treasure that enriches us. To illuminate the underlying worth of tolerance, maintaining eternal peace in the world, every year November 6, is celebrated as World Tolerance Day.
Within Article 1 of the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, which was proclaimed and signed by the Member States of the UNESCO in 1995, the meaning of tolerance in today’s political context is:
- Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty; it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
- 2. Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.
- 3. Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
- 4. Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one's own conviction and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behavior and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one's views are not to be imposed on others.
Seeing that, tolerance bears constitutional provision of UN, is the virtue of a civilized age. It is the virtue that helps us to put up with those, who have different ways and opinions, and outlook on life. It enables us to see always the other side of things, to suffer fools with patience, fanatics without losing out temper.
In earlier days difference in religion led to prosecution; difference in politics created bad blood, and difference in opinions ended in blows. This is intolerance, the refusal to be just and fair-minded. How many thousands of men and women in Europe were burnt to death for religious differences? The Crusades of the middle Ages bear out this fact. A whole community might be massacred in the name of God. Even today, religious and sectarian conflicts have blurred the factual image of a human turned into ferocious being. All this intolerance comes from bigotry, narrowness and blind self-conceit. It is the result of dogmatism, a belief that there is only one attitude that is right.
But as education has spread, the spirit of reason has tended to prevail and the vice of intolerance has fairly diminished. It fact, with the passage of years we are becoming more ready to recognize the possibility of views other than our own. We look upon tolerance as a mark of education and superior culture of ethics of the polite society.
After all, the world has not been set to one pattern, nor have men been shaped in a single mould. Difference, in environment or conditions of life, causes difference in temperament and opinion. Historical evolution has led to diversities in outlook.
Heredity is also a factor not to be over-looked. Each distinctive outlook has its own background. A cultured person takes these into account, makes allowance for them and is ready to make concessions and compromise. Without this broad-mindedness, energy will be wasted in futile arguments. In this long run, mere passion never leads to any good nor solves any problem; passion has to be controlled and disciplined by reason and tolerance.
Tolerance is not only an abstract virtue; it is of considerable influence in the current affairs of life. Man is a social being and has to live in a spirit of harmony and co-operation with others. In this process some amount of give-and-take is necessary, a capacity for compromise.
We cannot persuade others unless we ourselves are at the same time ready to be persuaded by practicing sweet reasonableness. Thus it will be seen that tolerance as a social virtue, is opposed to dogmatism or dictatorship. It is impossible for one to be tolerant if one is hide-bound and rigid in views or full of prejudices.
Anarchism and intolerance seem to be on the upgrade, of late. Extremists with the help of sophisticated military weapons are seeking to destabilize a country, taking heavy toll of innocent lives. Angry young man, challenging all established norms, now parades the walks of life. Tolerance has been cast to the winds by them. Our aim should be to tackle them with a strong hand and then, if permissible, bring them to the conference table.
There is no doubt in it that tolerance is the most necessary quality of our everyday life. Having imbibed the in-depth socio-political worth of tolerance it should be practiced as an integral part of our culture. If we uncultured tolerance we will be free from all the pain of envy within ourselves. Then our soul will live in peace and happiness. Children from their early childhood should develop the habit of tolerance. The elders should guide them in this respect.
Tolerance as a quality is indispensable in the democratic countries like Afghanistan where government is held responsible to ensure pluralistic legislation acquainted with UN constitutional provision, so that no one could dare to harass another fellow man only because he owes, views and practices religion different to him.