Tolerance is a complex word. According to the dictionary of the Royal Galician Academy, tolerance is “the ability to respect another’s opinions and attitudes though they may not coincide with one’s own.” But where does this ability come from? And how does one foster it?
Today, UNESCO celebrates the International Day for Tolerance and the United Nations wishes “to strengthen tolerance by fostering mutual understanding among cultures and people,” and this is why on November 16, 1995, they declared a day to remember, among other things, that governments must “legislate to protect equal opportunity for all groups and individuals in society.”
For years, I have worked with organizations that promote understanding among cultures, towards tolerance, through the arts. But in this freelance work, I also see the difference between those who say they are changing the world and those who are invisible, those who change the world on a daily basis without resources or support. How can we stop talking about tolerance and start practicing it?
Imagine a life where we are all capable of caring for, of nurturing and of practicing this ability: a utopic world where we would live without wars (a clear example of the intolerance of the few facing the suffering of the many), without refugees trapped between two equally cruel worlds and living in extreme situations on a daily basis, without violence. The rallying cry is clear: “diversity of religion, culture, language, and ethnicity must not be the cause of conflict but a source of richness, valued by all.” But then we read the newspapers or go out into the street, and we are faced with a reality quite distant from the definition of “tolerance.” Then one asks: where did we go wrong?