November 16 is observed as World Tolerance Day to educate people about the need for tolerance in society and to help them understand the negative effects of intolerance. It is said that “Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.” Tolerance can be defined as the possession of a fair and objective perspective and attitude towards those people who are of different races, religion, nations or have a set of opinions, beliefs and ideas the differ from our own. Tolerance is the virtue of a civilised 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 temper. Tolerance is not meant to encourage a week-kneed attitude to life. It has a limit, and beyond that, it may become even a social crime. It is a virtue only in the little things of life. Tolerance is one of man’s sterling virtues; and civilization itself has its indebtedness to it. Arthur Helps has made a relevant comment in this context – ‘Tolerance is the only real test of civilisation’.
Tolerance is a struggle for peace. This calls for new policies that respect diversity and pluralism on the basis of human rights. Most of all, this calls on each of us, women and men across the world, to act for tolerance in our own lives, in seeking to understand others, in rejecting all racism and hatred, including anti-Semitism.
The importance of tolerance lies in its ability to make a human being broad enough in mind to be receptive to all kinds of ideas. This, in turn, enables one to widen one’s knowledge and exercise more freedom of choice and judgement for oneself. At the same time it creates a deeper understanding of other’s views and beliefs. Human rights activists also use this day as an opportunity to speak out on human rights laws, especially with regard to banning and punishing hate crimes and discrimination against minorities. In the workplace, special training programs, talks, or messages from workplace leaders about the importance of tolerance are utilised on this day. Racial tension has grown due to intolerance. So long as human beings give in to envy, malice, jealousy and greed, tolerance will suffer. In recent times several longstanding and accepted social institution have shown signs of crumbling. Family values, social values are all being eroded. An increasing materialistic and consumer culture has not helped to nurture essential values.
We all are aware that 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. It is impossible for one to be tolerant if one is hide-bound and rigid in views or full of prejudices.
We must remember that tolerance is an act of humanity, which we must nurture and enact in our own lives every day, to rejoice in the diversity that makes us strong and the values that bring us together.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)