At the heart of this week the world celebrates International Day of Tolerance. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time given the uncertainty that many people face because of recent events. Across the globe there is not only a rising suspicion of the other but also a rising fear of the other. The recently concluded presidential election in the United States highlighted the division that exists in society, be it economic or educational, religious or racial, based on gender, age or ethnicity.
The Declaration of Principles on Tolerance affirms that tolerance is neither condescension nor indulgence. It is, rather, “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.” It further states that the practice of tolerance means, “accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behavior and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one’s views are not to be imposed on others.” Tolerance is fostered by “knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief.”
Pope Francis has been consistent in his call for a culture of encounter. Encounter with those at the margins, the poor, and the “stranger” gives us the opportunity to walk a while in their shoes, listen to what they have to say and see the world from their perspective. Jesus constantly sought to encounter the other, be it the Samaritan woman at the well or Zacchaeus in the tree, the woman who anointed his feet with ointment or the man possessed by demons in the country of the Gerasenes. To each he offered his undivided attention and the love of a hopeful, welcoming, inclusive and big-hearted God. He recognized each for who they really were, irrespective of their present circumstance or condition.
Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), writes,
Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us.
This week let us make the particular effort to stretch out our hands in welcome to the stranger, to spend some time learning about the other, to give a moment to view things through the eyes of those who are different from us and share a different perspective, political ideology or set of values and beliefs.
READ: What Pope Francis Means by a Culture of Encounter – Thomas J. Eggleston
WATCH: Humble – Audrey Assad
CONSIDER: Learn more about The International Day of Tolerance (Nov. 16)