2020-11-15 GENERAL HOUSE

November 16 : International Day for Tolerance

If we go to the dictionary, we can see how there are different meanings of the word “tolerance”. Perhaps, the definition with which we all identify most is one that speaks to us of respect for other people’s ideas or beliefs, of ideas that differ from mine or those of my group. Undoubtedly, this is an easy concept to assume from a distance, but less simple when “we must tolerate” whoever is next to us.

In this regard, education is of great importance. Knowing the other in their difference and their characteristics helps us to understand them better. If we understand the other better, it is easier to accept what is different, and thus be able to grow in mutual sharing. It is not just respecting the other, their difference, their culture, their way of doing things. It is also about learning to value the treasure possessed by those who are different from us. Marists of Champagnat are called to exercise their task as educators from this perspective.

We find ourselves in an increasingly globalized world. Societies have increasingly diverse populations. Our educational settings thus become an exceptional opportunity to train future generations in tolerance, in respect, in learning to discover the richness in what is different. The coexistence of people with different languages, religions, cultures, ethnicities … is a challenge and an opportunity to grow as human beings.

Watching the news across our different countries, we find that a good number of the stories display a lack of tolerance. Political parties raise the banner of tolerance but do not respect each other. Minority cultural groups ask to be tolerated but have trouble accepting those who are different to them. And us Marists? Can we continue to grow in this area? Of course we can. We know that we have taken positive steps and that we need to keep moving forward.

What does being a global family mean, if not precisely this? What are we trying to say when we talk about being bridge builders? Or again, of “abandoning the culture of ego-s and promoting that of the eco-s”? At the end of the Message of the XXII General Chapter there is a very beautiful phrase: “Interdependence, more than isolation or independence, must become the new normal for us.”

Remember that when we speak of tolerance we cannot identify it with indulgence. Indulging the other implies a certain “condescension” of the other, of the one who is different, from a position of power. Indulgence is not tolerance! Similarly, when we speak of tolerance we do not mean indifference. Indifference does not lead us to value diversity, to learn from that which is positive in the other, to appreciate their particular values. Indifference is not tolerance!

Those of us who come from a culture based on the Christian tradition – as is the case in other traditions – have learned from an early age that tolerance is to be valued. We have learned to respect, accept and love those who are different from us. “Goodness … justice, solidarity … have to be realised each day”, Pope Francis tells us in his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti. We could say the same about tolerance. We are not yet at the end of the road and we must continue taking steps, increasingly determined, to eliminate all traces of rejection, prejudice, misunderstanding, discrimination and intolerance.

Br Angel Diego – Director of the Secretariat for Solidarity


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