Tolerance is the foundation for mutual respect among people and communities, and is vital for building a single global society around shared values. It is a virtue and a quality, but above all, tolerance is an act – the act of reaching out to others and seeing differences not as barriers, but as invitations for dialogue and understanding.
Tolerance is especially necessary to guard against the politics of polarization, at a time when stereotypes, ignorance and hatred threaten to tear the delicate fabric of increasingly diverse societies. Today’s world is more closely tied than ever by trade and information technology, but rifts between and within communities and states are being broadened and deepened by poverty, ignorance and conflict. Furthermore, with the speed of communication blurring the lines between the global and the local, tensions in one corner of the world can spread rapidly to others.
Tolerance provides part of the answer to these challenges by building bridges between people and opening channels for communication. Tolerance does not mean accepting all practices and views as equal. On the contrary, its value lies in instilling greater awareness of and respect for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Tolerance is woven into the fabric of the United Nations. The UN Alliance of Civilizations continues its valuable efforts to fight extremism and promote intercultural understanding through media partnerships and youth exchange programmes. This past August, the United Nations launched the International Year of Youth, under the theme “dialogue and mutual understanding”, and tolerance is a core theme of the 2010 International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, an initiative of UNESCO.
Tolerance cannot be taken for granted. It has to be taught, nurtured and communicated. Education, inside and outside the classroom, is essential for strengthening tolerance and for combating hatred and discrimination. On this International Day of Tolerance, let us recommit to dialogue and understanding among all peoples and communities, and let us focus our minds and hearts on those who face discrimination and marginalization. A single humanity means living together and working together on the basis of mutual respect for the great wealth of human diversity.