November 16th: International Day of Tolerance

We live in a world with literally billions of people – people of countless different cultures, religions, beliefs, values, and experiences. In my opinion, this diversity is something to celebrate. Every time we interact with someone from a different background, we have the opportunity to stretch, grow, and expand our own personal experiences.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me. Some people have trouble embracing or respecting the beliefs and opinions of others. With the recent election, the U.S. in particular has recently been made painfully aware of this fact. In recognition of the uproar our country is currently in, it seems only too appropriate to discuss an international observance coming up on November 16th: the International Day of Tolerance.

International Day of Tolerance

The United Nations established the International Day of Tolerance on November 16th, 1945. It is a day designed to encourage and educate people in the art of respecting and honoring other individuals. The U.N. stresses that “tolerance” does not refer to indulging someone or being indifferent to them; it is simply respecting and appreciating others and the differences you share.

Five Components Of Spreading Tolerance

We live on a phenomenally diverse planet. Showing tolerance to others is the only way to spread peace and compassion throughout the world. The United Nations outlines five specific elements required in order to disseminate tolerance. Here are their primary tools required to fight intolerance:

  1. Laws – The U.N. states that each government is responsible for establishing its own set of laws that govern the way its people are expected to respect and tolerate each other’s differences. It goes on to mandate that the government is responsible for “banning and punishing hate crimes and discrimination against minorities,” regardless of whom commits them.
  2. Education – The U.N. acknowledges that intolerance frequently comes from a sense of overly exaggerated self-importance and a lack of understanding about someone else’s position. Often, intolerance is simply the manifestation of fear and ignorance. It is imperative that we educate our children about different cultures and teach them to embrace learning about these differences throughout their adult lives.
  3. Access to Information – Those spreading intolerance tend to prey upon the general public’s lack of knowledge about other cultural groups. They may spread inaccurate information (or position it in a way that it can become easily misconstrued). The best way to counteract this is by ensuring people have access to valid information that accurately predicts the situation.
  4. Individual Awareness – As the United Nations points out, intolerance is often the result of a vicious (and never-ending) cycle. For example, Jack may show a sign of intolerance to Bill, such as telling a racial joke or stereotyping his ancestry. Hurt and upset, Bill may retaliate against Jack or lash out towards another person or minority. The next victim may respond in kind. The cycle will continue until people become self-aware enough to recognize the role they’re playing in the pattern and make a conscious effort to rise above it.
  5. Local Solutions – While the U.N. requests that individual governments enact laws to require tolerance among its people, they also recognize that local solutions are equally important. In order to build a truly tolerant society, each individual person, family, business, and community must take it upon themselves to promote tolerance in their individual circles.

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