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The Baha'i take on tolerance

The opening years of the new millennium have clearly demonstrated that we have accelerated our pace for self-destruction.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 16:18 IST

The dynamism for the value shift needed to cope with the challenges of today's world is beyond the resources of any one religion. The opening years of the new millennium have clearly demonstrated that we have accelerated our pace for self-destruction.

The Bahá'í writings call upon world leaders to understand the events in recent decades and the forces operating in the world in the context of two great processes — one destructive and the other integrative. Both of these seem to be propelling humanity towards the establishment of a new World Order. “Let your principal concern,” Bahá'u'lláh has written, "be to rescue the fallen from the slough of impending extinction. Your behaviour towards your neighbour should be such as to clearly manifest signs of the one true God."

Thus, the virtue of tolerance seems to be an indispensable element in every department of human activity.

Tolerance — the ability to recognize and respect others' worth, live peaceably with others and listen to what others have to say — is the cornerstone of civil society and of peace. Unless we open our hearts and accept one another, unless we have mutual tolerance, neither coexistence nor cooperation is possible. Opening our hearts requires the mental latitude and humility to reflect on ourselves. We cannot be tolerant, if we are convinced that we are always right. Finite beings that we are, we cannot possibly be right all the time. On the contrary, we fallible mortals are likely to be wrong more often than right.

It is this realisation that gives us the humility to listen to what others have to say. Thus, the first basic condition for tolerance is awareness of our finiteness and imperfection.

This selfawareness nurtures the magna nimity to accept criticism frankly.

When tolerance is successfully applied at the personal level, it has ramifications for geo-political relations. Being a responsible citizen on the local and national level is not at odds with love for all humanity; rather these multi-layered allegiances and obligations form a tightly woven web, often an inseparable whole.