Along with outright injustice and violence, discrimination and marginalization are common forms of intolerance. Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning. 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 all.
- "Respect and tolerance are liberating acts, whereby the differences of others are recognized as the same as our own and whereby the riches of another culture are taken as the wealth of all" - Irina Bokova, 21 March 2014
On the day of its fiftieth anniversary, 16 November 1995, UNESCO's Member States adopted a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance. Among other things, the Declaration affirms that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. It is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. 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.
How can intolerance be countered?
1. Fighting intolerance requires law:
Each Government is responsible for enforcing human rights laws, for banning and punishing hate crimes and discrimination against minorities, whether these are committed by State officials, private organizations or individuals. The State must also ensure equal access to courts, human rights commissioners or ombudsmen, so that people do not take justice into their own hands and resort to violence to settle their disputes.
2. Fighting intolerance requires education:
Laws are necessary but not sufficient for countering intolerance in individual attitudes. Intolerance is very often rooted in ignorance and fear: fear of the unknown, of the other, other cultures, nations, religions. Intolerance is also closely linked to an exaggerated sense of self-worth and pride, whether personal, national or religious. These notions are taught and learned at an early age. Therefore, greater emphasis needs to be placed on educating more and better. Greater efforts need to be made to teach children about tolerance and human rights, about other ways of life. Children should be encouraged at home and in school to be open-minded and curious.
Education is a life-long experience and does not begin or end in school. Endeavours to build tolerance through education will not succeed unless they reach all age groups, and take place everywhere: at home, in schools, in the workplace, in law-enforcement and legal training, and not least in entertainment and on the information highways.
3. Fighting intolerance requires access to information:
Intolerance is most dangerous when it is exploited to fulfil the political and territorial ambitions of an individual or groups of individuals. Hatemongers often begin by identifying the public's tolerance threshold. They then develop fallacious arguments, lie with statistics and manipulate public opinion with misinformation and prejudice. The most efficient way to limit the influence of hatemongers is to develop policies that generate and promote press freedom and press pluralism, in order to allow the public to differentiate between facts and opinions.
4. Fighting intolerance requires individual awareness:
Intolerance in a society is the sum-total of the intolerance of its individual members. Bigotry, stereotyping, stigmatizing, insults and racial jokes are examples of individual expressions of intolerance to which some people are subjected daily. Intolerance breeds intolerance. It leaves its victims in pursuit of revenge. In order to fight intolerance individuals should become aware of the link between their behavior and the vicious cycle of mistrust and violence in society. Each one of us should begin by asking: am I a tolerant person? Do I stereotype people? Do I reject those who are different from me? Do I blame my problems on 'them'?
5. Fighting intolerance requires local solutions:
Many people know that tomorrow's problems will be increasingly global but few realize that solutions to global problems are mainly local, even individual. When confronted with an escalation of intolerance around us, we must not wait for governments and institutions to act alone. We are all part of the solution. We should not feel powerless for we actually posses an enormous capacity to wield power. Nonviolent action is a way of using that power-the power of people. The tools of nonviolent action-putting a group together to confront a problem, to organize a grassroots network, to demonstrate solidarity with victims of intolerance, to discredit hateful propaganda-are available to all those who want to put an end to intolerance, violence and hatred.
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Education Towards a Peaceful World
July 16, 2011
War. The word makes me shiver with the horror of its cruel reality. What has the world come to if more money is being provided for military purposes than for education? School opens up the pathway to knowledge and to fulfillment while war is just an agent of revenge and power. Are we really so different from the vicious territorial mammals that roam the Savannah? The only real difference is the fact that our “claws” are guns and missiles. Our “claws” have the potential to damage not only ourselves but everything else that shares our world. If an advanced alien race was to look upon our planet and see all the war and destruction, they would bear witness to an immature civilization, separated from the animals only by our ability to harness more powerful tools of devastation.
The path to societal enhancement lies in education and knowledge. As we learn more about other cultures and beliefs we discover that instead of being completely alien, they are rather similar. This is how we grow and share ideas and mature as a united world. We live on the same planet; we are all related to one another. Through knowledge and understanding we can more deeply understand each other and reach a more peaceful world. This is why schooling is so important and why ignorance is NOT bliss. What happens when we are ignorant? War and hatred and mistrust occur. All of these hinder any movement towards peace and enlightenment.
In our world today education is extremely vital. It helps us learn to question wrong ideas and actions. It is a sure path to a unified world, a world where everybody is accepted and loved. It is also the path towards the absence of war and hatred. Knowledge is important. Take advantage of it. Read, write, share your ideas, dance, love the world and others. Learn, and be at peace.