lunes, 4 de abril de 2011

Praise for Tolerance

Alarmed by the growth of intolerance and its manifestations of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other expressions of hatred and discrimination, different international bodies have reacted, such as the United Nations with their proclamation of 1995 as the Global Year of Tolerance, and UNESCO which approved a Declaration and instituted it the 16th of November, 2010 (the anniversary of its constitution) as the Global Day of Tolerance. These moments of general mobilization did not continue and failed to translate into political or legislative instruments. In UNESCO’s Declaration, the Heads of State and Government are posed to defend the principle of tolerance as a core value of democratic coexistence, demanding that it not be confused with the notion of permissiveness and stating that “Tolerance is respect, acceptance, and appreciation of the infinite richness of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression, and ways of being human. Tolerance fosters knowledge, openness of ideas, communication, and freedom of conscience. Tolerance is harmony in difference and not just a moral duty, but a political and legal requirement.”
The Universal Academy of Culture affirmed the dangerous international advance of intolerance — whether racial, religious, sexist, or cultural — and its infiltration and role in stimulating hatred. An International Forum analyzed at length the problem and its dramatic expression in Europe, historically marked by an idea of“institutionalized intolerance which explains the concentration camps, crematoria, punishment by beating, the ossuaries, the deportations, the gulags and confinement.” In truth history gives us countless examples. “The individual and collective intolerance combined to give rise to the Inquisition, religious wars, genocides, totalitarian purges, fascism, fundamentalism, etc.” says the Academy.
Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, in his introductory text to the Forum states that intolerance “is not just the vile instrument of the enemy, but the enemy itself.” It is the threshold of hatred and violence, and Wiesel insists that intolerance as much as fascism inevitably leads to the humiliation of one’s fellow men, and thus to the denial of human beings and their development potential. The manifestations of intolerance establish as a common value, not the person with their own diverse identities, but one’s own identity confronted with that of others, who are not accepted and who are denied respect and appreciation. It is the common denominator and appears linked to manifestations of hatred of a racial, national, gender-based, or religious nature, or other behaviors that discriminate against, segregate, attack or incite to attack groups, minorities, or people for being, thinking, or acting differently. When intolerance becomes a collective or institutionalized fact, it undermines coexistence and democratic principles and poses a threat to world peace.
But how can you combat intolerance? We know how to confront fascism because it is a system, a structure, a powerful will, and we must unmask it, reject it, repudiate it, and exclude it from democratic societies. However, as the Academy states, with intolerance it is more complicated because it is subtle, because it is a common disposition potentially nesting in us, and it is difficult to identify it and detect its features. Intolerance feeds prejudice and as Einstein said, “it is harder to neutralize an atom than to split it,”but the worst, as the Academy tells us, is its ductility because intolerance is not part of a system, a religion, nor an ideology, but of the human condition, being present in each of us, reaching to a deeper depth than any ideology, being at the origin of phenomena of a different nature.
The current economic crisis has made possible the dissemination of the prejudices and stereotypes of those who foster xenophobia, spreading intolerant dialogues. This is very dangerous in electoral campaigns, and harms democratic coexistence, social cohesion, and intercultural integration. Many of these infamies are spread openly on the Internet, fueling the hatred. They also host racist concerts, demonstrations with openly xenophobic expressions and yells, and propaganda campaigns that violate the dignity and rights of immigrants, minorities, and the wider society to such an extent that we are no longer surprised by attacks on offices of leftist parties, cultural associations, and social organizations. One must add to all this the attacks on people which in some cases have ended irreparably in murder.
The Equal Treatment Act, a commitment of the Government of Spain, is an opportunity to respond fully to discrimination and hatred, provided that measures are taken to support victims. They are considering Prosecutors’ Offices for Hate Crimes and Discrimination for all Autonomous Communities and a reform of the Penal Code to punish incitement and not allow any space for impunity, placing us within the international mandates of effectively combating racism, xenophobia, and intolerance. Together, we can.
Esteban Ibarra
President of Movement against Intolerance

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