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International tolerance day – Why it is celebrated

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Tolerance – something that we can agree on that we don’t often have. Tolerance is defined as the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with. In light of the definition and what this actually stands for, the United Nations declared November 16 as the International Day for tolerance in 1995. The 16th is also the same day when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) formulated the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance.

This might be a mouthful, but if the above is simplified this day is simply all about the ability and willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour of others that one would not normally like or agree with. This year was focused on climate change, especially in light of how everyone’s lives across the globe changed after the COVID-19 pandemic hit – forcing countries around the world into lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. Over and above the challenge that COVID posed to all cultures and societies, the mindset of people across the world needs to change drastically from a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation. We need to find ways to work together, as diverse as cultures and beliefs might be, to work towards building an environmentally-friendly and sustainable future.

The first thing that all of us need to do is to get educated and informed about other people’s beliefs. Do your bit by making it your mission to read about different cultures and nationalities. Books and useful information are the best ways to break free from wrong assumptions and preconceived ideas. Even though it might be hard, it is so important to listen to the opinions and viewpoints of others. In many cases, when we lack tolerance towards others it’s simply because we don’t understand them. By cultivating an open mind, learning about other cultures and people, and broadening our horizons, we increase our ability to understand and accept others.

As we work to develop greater tolerance in our own lives, we will find that we are happier and more at peace with ourselves and others and we will then start appreciating diversity. To tolerate is to empower!


“Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.”
― Timothy Keller
International tolerance day – Why it is celebrated


Inge Liebenberg




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