THE International Day of Tolerance seeks to promote Toleance, respect to the recognition and acceptance of looks, opinions, beliefs and practices that is different from one’s own.
Tolerance is considered the back bone of human rights and fundamental freedoms as people are naturally different. Tolerance allows mixed communities to thrive and ensures that all humans are equally important.
The International Day of tolerance was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996. It has been since been celebrated annually on N0v 16, by those who strive to unite the world through mutual understanding and respect.
Speaking on the significance of the day, Dr Charles Chinedu disclosed that Intolerance among people can be fought through law, education, access to information, individual’s awareness, local solution .
Note that Intolerance originated early in history and introduced in our system as result of slave trade where differences in race were not tolerated.
It is also on record that most recent and most well known example of intolerance was the holocaust during the 2nd world war where religion was not tolerated.
Rev Fr Kingsley Ibe of SS John and Paul Catholic Parish, Umubele, Awka, disclosed that since the New Testament times, it has been a Christian conviction that outward unity among believers is a normal consensus that the church on earth not only ought to be but is visibly one and that this unity is permanently guaranteed by divine assistance. Christopher butler shares this conviction in his ‘Theology of the second Vatican council.’
This unity of believers though sometimes, ruptured by heresies but healed in the Ecumenical Councils was for centuries retained under the umbrella of Christendom, headed spiritually by the popes.
This Christendom however, witnessed a scandalous polarization in 1054, following the infamous mutual excommunication between pope Leo IX and Michael Ceralarius, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. With this, the Eastern Schism has occurred and Christendom became divided into West (Roman Catholic) and East (Eastern Orthodox).
While the Eastern Orthodox maintained her internal unity, a sort of unity of the Western Catholic Church was ruptured in the 16th century by the reformation saga. And the outcome of this was proliferation of protestant churches.
The 1054 and 16th century schisms left Christendom with three major blocs: The Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and protestants. For centuries, each of these ecclesiastical blocs went her own way and never wanted to have anything in common with the“ other. Today , efforts are being made to unite Christians but to some extent as observed by Bishop Hilary Odili Okeke in his Milestone in Ecumenism, Christians still “proclaim the same Christ in the cacophony of their divided voice”
Officially declared by UNESCO in 1995, the international Day for peace and Tolerance, celebrated annually on 16th Novermber, has an important goal which is getting the general public see tolerance as a staple of society. Among the features of this celebration is live debates and discussion on tolerance and in-rush of detailed articles on tolerance into the UN Chronicle Online Education site.
The three are not independent of each other but are deeply interwoven, in the sense that tolerance has its basis on common humanity and it can only be realized through dialogue.
The words, tolerance common humanity and dialogue are important not only for world peace and unity but also for peace and unity among Christians which is technically called ecumenism.
In her 1995 Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, the UNESCO sees tolerance as “respect, acceptance and appreciation of diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human”. This view of tolerance which is reiterated every November 16, has a lesson for Christians regarding ecumenism.
It tells the followers of Christ that the best cure for divided Christendom is what the Second Vatican Council calls the ecumenism of ‘Legitima Diversitas’ (legitimate diversity) or complementary pluralism, which emphasizes unity in the midst of divided Christendom.
This model of ecumenism is summarized in Pope Paul VI’s Allocution at the General Audience in 14th May 1969, as that which “ advocates not unity in uniformity but unity in diversity”. The Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox, Pentecostals can cringe to their religious traditions while acknowledging each other’s right to exist and co-operating with one another.
This is a pluralistic understanding of the church of Christ and which makes room for mutual tolerance among Christians.
The call for tolerance as made by the UNESCO on every November 16th, is rooted in the fact of common humanity. We are all human and as humans, we are all equal. This understanding provides a basis for tolerance.
The common humanity argument for tolerance among the peoples of the world, should also inform the unity among Christians. This is the conviction of the Catholic Church as contained in the Vatican ii document ‘Gaudium et Spes’, which states inter alia that the whole of humankind forms one family, due to the common origin of all men and women, created by God in his own image.
Correspondingly, all are called to a common destiny, the fullness of life in God. Moreover, there is but one plan of salvation for humankind, with its centre in Jesus Christ, who in his incarnation “has united himself in a certain manner to every person” ( cf. ‘ Gaudium et Spes’ 22.2).
The common belief in Christ among Christian should be a unifying factor for all Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants; it should be the driving force of ecumenism.
The UNESCO’s advocacy of dialogue as a means of tolerance can be of great help for ecumenism. Dialogue is the best instrument for Christian unity. The pluralistic understanding of the Church calls for ecumenical dialogue among Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants without each looking down on the other.
In the understanding of the Catholic Church as contained in the document ‘Dialogue and Proclamation’ no 42, this dialogue has four forms and they include:
a )The dialogue of life, where people strive to live in an open and neighbourly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations.
b)The dialogue of action, in which Christians and others collaborate for the integral development and liberation of people.
c)The dialogue of theological exchange, where specialists seek to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritages, and to appreciate each other’s spiritual values.
d)The dialogue of religious experience, where persons, rooted in their own religious traditions, share their spiritual riches, for instance, with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute.
According to the document ‘Dialogue and Proclamation’ no 32 the above forms of dialogue are interconnected. Contracts in daily life and common commitment to action will normally open the door for co-operation in promoting human and spiritual values;
they may also eventually lead to the dialogue of religious experience in response to the great questions which the circumstances of life do not fail to arouse in the minds of people ( cf. the Vatican II document ‘ Nostra Aetate’ no.2). Lastly, exchanges at the level of religious experience can give more life to theological discussions. These in turn can enlighten and encourage closer contacts, tolerance and unity.
The UNESCO’s gospel of “tolerance with its basis on common humanity, can be achieved through dialogue” which is celebrated on the International Day for Tolerance, is a blue print for ecumenism or Christian unity.
Ecumenism is based on our common origin in Adam, as well as common redemption in Christ Jesus and it can be realized through sincere dialogue”. .
Reverend Cannon Ifeanyi Emegwa of the Church of Pentecost lamented that the effects of tolerance on the disagreements between churches adhere strongly to their different traditional beliefs. Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox and Pentecostal Churches, even though they are all Christians, have different views of Christianity which vary in some cases.
“There is gross disagreement between these churches which includes their mode of prayer and worship, doctrines and even pattern of dressing. This disagreement has overtime resulted to conflicts, unhealthy and dangerous competition and insatiable quest to dominate.
“Tolerance is simply an ability to condone and accept beliefs, opinions and practices of others: When churches tolerate each other bearing in mind that we all believe in one God and his son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Christianity will be stronger and resistant to persecutions from other religions. Also more souls will be won for God.
“However, it is our earnest prayers and desire that as we celebrate the International Day for Tolerance, churches and Christians all over the world will condone and tolerate each other’s differences and beliefs and live in peace and unity with love to achieve our common goal which is heaven at last.
Elder Charles Nwanya- New Life Winners Church, firmly advised Christians to have faith and rely in God.” If God’s grace is not in you, it means you are going away, so our faith in God should enable us to overcome trials and temptations hovering around us.
It is due to the trust Job had in God that saved Job, because satan conspired and planned against Job, even lied and falsified against him but God warned Satan not to touch the heart of Job but can do anything to him. Satan started to destroy his farms, wives, children ,etc but with Job’s acceptance of faith, tolerance, pains, trust, trials and temptations, God doubled them for Job.
My advice is that people should not be discouraged and don’t quit from doing good work for people. God said “whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you have done that to me”.
Chief Emeka Nwosu, Messenger of Ngwu Shrine said that God made this world and created all humans to love one another, forget and forgive one another. Truth is life and if you are righteous, long live will be credited to you. The nature of my status has made me to entertain mercy to those who come across me.
Prof Tina Okoye from UNIZIK remarked that the International Day for Tolerance showcases love, peace, unity, humility, forgiveness, forgetfulness ,accommodate, condoning and so on. But St Augustine said, “ Love and do whatever you like. She lamented that the resume of the whole thing is quagmire.
The Intolerance has done more harm than good in our nation, Nigeria. People are full of hatred among themselves, forgetting the love of Christ who holds our destiny and breath. The fruits of this menace are pride, discrimination, greed, enmity, Jealousy.
Why all these? Are we permanent in these earthly things. This world is still here and all of us will pass away, so why don’t you reverse or reject that attitude, the spirit of hatred and unforgiveness.
If the International Day for Tolerance should be recognized and observed yearly in our society, community, states and country what can stop us from being good and behave like Children of God.
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