November 16th marks the United Nations International Day for Tolerance. On this day people and states are encouraged to promote peace and inclusion across the globe. This celebration reminds us of the dignity and worth of every human being and encourages us to live together in peace.
The UN along with states and various NGOs and civil society organizations have emphasized the importance of education in promoting values of peace and inclusion. In their overview the UN asserts, “education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning”.
It is also important, however, that we continue to go beyond tolerance and promote acceptance and inclusion. This point was raised by Kim Samuel during a panel discussion at the Doha Goals Forum, as she says, “a more tolerant society is not enough: if shared achievement is our goal, we must do more than let people be; we have to let people in.” It is not enough to simply tolerate the differences of other people, cultures, and backgrounds, but rather we need to create an inclusive society in which everyone is able to live a life of dignity.
The Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education is one organization that has recognized the importance of education in building compassion and empathy. They believe that intolerance and lack of empathy is learned. As stated by the Dalai Lama at the 2014 Heart-Mind Summit, “our care for others is rich and powerful when we are young. We see no differences between those around us and ourselves. We care for others as we would care for ourselves,” yet somehow many lose this sense of empathy and understanding as they enter adulthood.
Our innate state is one of compassion, which means compassion in society can be sustained. Education is one way of ensuring that tolerance and acceptance become deeply embedded in our value systems.
On this International Day for Tolerance, we encourage you to promote inclusion and acceptance in your community and with those around you.