Cultural tolerance and its importance

Simply skimming through the headlines of a newspaper, one is perturbed by the seemingly endless number of human catastrophes wrecking our fragile blue planet. The cycle of escalating violence and provocations in Yemen, extrajudicial murders in Myanmar, overlapping conflicts across the Great Sahel, and the potential unravelling of the European Union are only a few atrocities amongst the multiple conflicts we are bedevilled with. A prudent comparison of these conflicts would conclude that the one common cause triggering these horrific actions is that of intolerance.

Instead of merely criticising global governments whilst describing the climate of intensifying  intolerance across the world, what are the practical steps we could take to resolve this crisis?

The global adventure is that of human beings of different religions, ethnicities, languages and beliefs collaborating together in their spectacular diversity to dream the same dreams. It is a huge disappointment to observe bodies of people espouse intolerance to novel cultures and traditions, simply due to ignorance disabling their ability to empathise with different cultural outlooks. A tragic illustration would be the Bhurka-ban and the Islamaphobia seen across the global north.

Global democracies have been built on the idea that nations may celebrate differences of creed, conviction, colour, culture, cuisine, costume and custom, and yet still mobilise around a democratic consensus. In a pluralist society, a key tenant of this form of democracy is the ability to debate one another, and crucially to disagree. Therefore, not just a respect for difference but an acceptance of it would ensure that our diversity is the source of our strength, rather than a weakness. It is up to us, as millennials, to uphold that idea of difference and fervently reject any attempt to dilute it.

Growing up in a country like India enchants one with several signs of cultural pluralism. As a global citizen walking down Cavalry Road of Bangalore, one would observe how the wail of the muezzin calling people of Islamic faith to prayer blends with the chiming of bells accompanying the chant of mantras at a Hindu Ganapathi temple. Indeed, this is all alongside the loudspeakers outside a Sikh Gurdwara, reverberating verses from the Granth Sahib while many people of Christian faith attend evening mass at a church nearby. While it is interesting to observe how worshippers of several religions joyfully celebrate their cultures in harmony, it is important to acknowledge that the amount of intolerance within these spaces outweighs the cultural amicability they strive to possess.

The key to respect, acceptance and appreciation of our forms of expression, our ways of being human and of our rich diversity within cultures, is tolerance. To foster a spirit of tolerance, it is important to engage in a diverse outlook of knowledge, openness, communication, freedom of thought, conscience and belief. To replace the culture of war with a culture of peace, we must incorporate a moral, political and legal requirement of tolerance.

The practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the insensitive weakening of one’s convictions. Consistent with the respect for human rights, this principle of tolerance means that one is free to cohere to one’s own convictions while accepting that others adhere to theirs. By simply accepting that humans are naturally diverse in their approaches, appearance, values and behaviours, and yet have the right to live in peaceful co-existence, we would be one step closer to instigating peace in the dangerous chapter our world has entered into.

 

Image: ruffin_ready Hyderabad bazaar vi flikr

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