Reading Comprehension - Essay: Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace

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Here is an interesting essay that suggests ways to tackle all persisting obstacles along the path to a peaceful and tolerant society.
1. Towards a Culture of
Tolerance and Peace
Emmanuel Agius
Jolanta Ambrosewicz
International Bureau for Children’s Rights
1185, Saint-Mathieu Street
Montreal (Quebec)
Canada H3H 2P7
Telephone: +1.514.932.7656
Fax: +1.514.932.9453
Email: [email protected]
2. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
Note to our Readers
This text is part of an educational package for public secondary schools aiming at
teaching schoolchildren about the culture of peace and tolerance. For more information or
inquiries please contact the IBCR Programme on Children Affected by Armed Conflict,
1185 Saint-Mathieu, Montreal, Quebec H3H 2P7, Canada; tel: (+514) 932-7656 (ext.
222), fax: (+514) 932-9453, e-mail: [email protected]
Note About the Authors
Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Agius is a Professor at the University of Malta, Faculty of
Theology, la Valletta, Malta.
Dr. Jolanta Ambrosewicz is a researcher at the Center for European Studies at the
Jagellonian University in Krakow, Poland.
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3. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
From a Culture of War and Conflict to a Culture of Peace and Tolerance ...................... 4
The Challenge of Multiculturalism .................................................................................. 6
Resurgence of Intolerance Changed Communities and Challenged Schools .................. 8
Multicultural and Intercultural Education ........................................................................ 9
Describing Tolerance ..................................................................................................... 11
Intolerance and Violence ............................................................................................... 17
Tolerance and Human Rights ......................................................................................... 21
Tolerance Enshrined in {PRIVATE }International Instruments .................................... 22
Indicators of Intolerance ................................................................................................ 27
Some further Details of Intolerant Attitude ................................................................... 32
What Helps to Overcome Negative Stereotypes and Prejudices? ................................. 40
Hopeful Signs of Tolerance ........................................................................................... 53
How to counter Intolerance ............................................................................................ 56
Why Educate for Tolerance? ......................................................................................... 56
The International Year of Tolerance .............................................................................. 58
Tolerance Education as a Global Movement ................................................................. 59
Who Can Help to Educate Tolerance? ........................................................................... 61
A Culture of Peace: Aspirations and Visions ................................................................ 63
Conclusion ..................................................................................................................... 65
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4. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
Our children are living and growing up with one of the greatest challenges societies face
today, diversity. In a world where cultures increasingly converge and intermingle with
each other, teaching the values and skills of ‘learning to live together’, has become a
priority issue for education.
From a Culture of War and Conflict to a Culture of Peace and Tolerance
Human civilisation over time has created immemorial settlements of groups of people
living together. We are only familiar with the last three and a half thousand years. It is
interesting to note that calculations based on the surviving written historical records
reveal, that out of these three and a half thousand years, only two hundred and fifty were
peaceful. In other words, the history of civilisation is a history of constant warfare,
destruction, conquest and violence, and not of prosperity, peace and development.
The twentieth century surpassed all the previous centuries in terms of the magnitude of
violence and cruelty. Thus, the twenty-first century has put humanity into a dilemma.
Either it will become an age of a culture of peace and tolerance, or it will be the last
century in the history of civilisation. In the last century, the culture of war and
intolerance, in all its manifestations, became one of the greatest evils for humankind.
Two World Wars, more than 200 large-scale wars and armed conflicts, the violence of
totalitarian and antidemocratic regimes, the struggle for power, and genocide, all a result
from the culture of war, have claimed up to 300 million lives. The creation, improvement
and spread of weapons of mass destruction are an indication of an increased risk of using
those weapons.
The intolerant domestic political strife and social upheavals in many countries with
racism, genocide, and war indicate that the spread of ideas of peace and tolerance and the
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formation of such a culture is of paramount importance for the life of every human being,
family, organization, state, and society. The salvation of mankind lies in the
establishment of a culture of peace and tolerance. The culture of war and intolerance
takes humanity to a common grave.
Examining the history of civilization in this light, we come to the following unequivocal
conclusion: humankind has to make a transition from the culture of war and violence to a
culture of peace and harmony. A culture of peace must be developed as a result of this
transition as a process of spiritual enrichment of every single individual and the entire
society. As a result, the existing ideas of peace will become the personal moral and
spiritual values of each and every individual, they will form his or her thinking and
mentality, direct his or her creative forces and capabilities and all other activities. Only
through this culture will it be possible to prevent the destruction of civilization, the
darkness and chaos, and to achieve peace and harmony, and create conditions for the
development of mankind.
Both present and future generations have the right to live in peace. We have a moral
responsibility to bequeath to future generations a culture of peace and tolerance. As the
UNESCO Declaration on the Responsibilities of Present Generations towards Future
Generations states, “the present generation should ensure that both the present and future
generations learn to live together in peace, security, respect for international law, human
rights and fundamental freedoms”. Moreover, the same declaration claims, “the present
generation should spare future generations the scourge of war. To that end, they should
avoid exposing future generations to the harmful consequences of armed conflicts as well
as all other forms of aggression and use of weapons, contrary to humanitarian principles.”
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The Challenge of Multiculturalism
“The problem is that in the nearest Millennium (when exactly I cannot say,
because I am not a prophet) Europe will became a multiracial continent,
or, if you prefer, “colourful”. If you like it – it will happen; if you do not
like it – it will happen as well.”
(Umberto Eco)
It is estimated that in the world there are between 3000 and 7000 various ethnic and
national groups. Most of these groups aspire for some form of autonomy or
recognition as an independent state. These aspirations lead to intensification of
conflicts, mass migrations, and wars. Tensions between individuals, communities
and states mostly stem from bias and intolerance. Intolerance is a threat to stability
and peace. Modernization, economic deprivation, and weak political institutions are
intertwined factors that lead to anxiety because the others are considered as
In many conflict situations, where religion is often manipulated or exploited, identity
is enhanced to sustain the unity of the group, often overused to justify erupting
hostility and violence. This situation is quite evident in the following situations:
between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Tamils and Sinhalese, Greek
and Turkish Cypriots, Albanians and Serbs, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, Flemish
and Valloon, Vietnamese and Cambodians, Sikhs and other Indians, Israelis and
Palestinians. Some ethnic groups remain at the margin of newly created states: Serbs
in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albanians in Kosovo, and Armenians in
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Problems of ethnic and national minorities as well as national and cultural identities
did not emerge from World War II until 1989/1990. Transition from a centrally
planned economy to a market economy provided grounds for conflicts and struggle
for revival among hostile ethnic groups, which previously lived peacefully together.
Along West-East and North-South divisions are the biggest dangers to the safety of
Europe and the world. Military interventions and/or international bodies’ resolutions
do not always bring satisfactory results. It is very important to realize that individual
identity, together with awareness of group identity, is indispensable to each human
Many believe that their identity is forever simply because of the fact that they are
born in a given country. However, identity, both group and individual, is not
unchangeable. In fact, it is a process of adapting norms, which we consider
important and rejecting values and norms considered as not right or outdated. There
is a lack of awareness of the fact that identity formation may lead to narrowly
understood loyalty to a closed set of norms and values that may lead to chauvinism,
dogmatism, totalitarianism. Awareness of our identity can free us from various fears,
anxieties, frustrations and feelings of being lost. Fear can also be manipulated, cause
various feelings of danger or hinder rational thinking.
Human communities have a tendency to define their identities by distinguishing
themselves from others. This is a natural tendency, which can have positive
outcomes, such as respect for diversity as well as negative ones, such as hostility or
hate. The latter happens when one group considers itself better than another, for
instance claims to be chosen by God, history or fate. History shows that no group,
religion, ideology or culture has a monopoly on truth, beauty and good. There is not
a better, more important, truer religion or culture. There are thousands of them.
There are no better nations or ethnic groups. There are many diverse nations and
ethnic groups. A closer look shows that many religions and cultures have numerous
common values and rules. It is also true that religions carry within themselves the
seed of conflicts, deriving from one sided, dogmatic interpretations of their teaching.
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Crusades, the Inquisition, holy wars, and colonial expeditions are just a few
Ethnically cleansed tribes did not create Modern Europe. It was born by people’s
migrations through ages across the entire continent. Cultivating ethnically and
culturally “clean” identities may lead to fanaticism, hate, violence and war.
In the modern world ethnic, religious, and social diversity is everywhere. On one
hand, we see a tendency to connect states and nations, and create transnational
entities; on the other, there is a tendency for separation of nations from previously
common states. Only 10% of states out of more than 200 are mono-ethnic. In
Europe, a relatively small territory was always challenged by diversity. How did
people react to diversity? In the past and more recently Europeans reacted through
assimilation (forced integration), as well as ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Ethnic
pluralism gives liberty but does not promote integration. Civil integration, with
respect to diversity, present in models of multicultural or intercultural societies
seems the most desired practice.
Resurgence of Intolerance Changed Communities and Challenged Schools
When the international community emerged from the decades of the Cold War, a deep
sense of optimism and new hopes appeared on the horizon of the world community.
Many believed that the end of this struggle was the beginning of a new era. It was hoped
that the destructive consequences of that conflict and the deep divisions imposed by
global economic inequalities might now be addressed and resolved once and for all for
the benefit of both present and future generations.
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These hopes were sorely tested, however, by the eruption of regional conflicts and the
hostilities between peoples that fragmented nations and drastically changed the political
map of the world as it had been for nearly half a century. All over the globe, inter-group
tensions, religious hostilities, and ethnic conflicts erupted. Many long-standing conflicts
previously overlooked came to world attention. Deep hatreds, some of which had
previously healed through reconciliation, which permitted distinct ethnic groups to live
together in peace and cooperation, surfaced in social behaviour and political movements.
These conflicts along with problems of poverty that have accelerated migration rates have
increased the number of refugees seeking asylum and migrants seeking work in countries
and communities that once were primarily monocultural. Multiculturalism emerged, often
unanticipated, as a social condition that affected many communities, which had a major
impact on their schools. Classrooms have become microcosms of the cultural diversity of
global society and cross-cultural understanding has become a primary requirement of a
healthy learning climate in schools around the world. This challenge is an opportunity to
educate for a harmonious multiculturalism that is envisioned as the positive pluralism of
a culture of tolerance and peace, referred to as a convivial community, or in the world of
the distinguished Mexican educator Pablo Latapsi, ‘a community of solidarity’.
Multicultural and Intercultural Education
School is the institution where students acquire knowledge and develop attitudes.
Schools should not only transmit information but also promote justice, equality and
help students to challenge the many types of prejudice and discrimination present in
the modern world. Does your school fulfil this purpose? In case it does, you can help
to bring about changes to improve attitudes toward others, alone or with others. In
case it does not yet, you can begin your own contribution, alone or with others.
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Nowadays, multicultural and intercultural are popular words in the theory of
education. In practice, they might cause hesitation or reluctance. Often
misunderstood, they might evoke defensive mechanisms against fear of losing one’s
own culture, and more so - identity. The idea of borders between cultures can also
be misunderstood. In our world, multiculturalism is unavoidable and can be
compared to a continuum rather than a mixture of separated cultures. Such a
continuum is not a melting pot but a mosaic where cultures coexist and interfere,
similar to communication between individuals belonging to different and distinct
cultures. The fear of loosing one’s identity should be challenged. Our identities are
not monolithic. When we accept various parts of ourselves, we start to accept
diversity outside of us also.
Multicultural education is defined as education that recognises, accepts, values, and
promotes diversity in pluralistic societies. It meets educational needs of minority
children but it is not limited to that alone. It prepares all children for life in a
multicultural society. Moreover, it accepts the interdependence of individual ethnic,
religious, and cultural groups. It prizes individual and group heritage as valuable
resources for all. It embraces elements of both surface culture (history, arts, holiday,
folklore, food) and deep culture (beliefs, values, actions, concepts of time, space,
taboos, myths). Intercultural education is more than appreciation of differences; it
deals with everyday communication between people of different cultures. It is a part
of education for international understanding along with the education for personal
and national identity, education for economic and industrial understanding, education
for citizenship, and education for the global environment.
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Describing Tolerance
“In the postmodern world we must all learn to live with ethno cultural
diversity, rapid social change and mass migration. There is no peaceful
(A.H. Richmond)
The notion of “tolerance” is used in a number of senses and as a philosophy. As such, it is
a formula of civilised coexistence of all the participants in social relations with their
diverse opinions, convictions, beliefs, points of view, and other characteristics. This
notion began to foster the harmonious, stable, reliable, and lasting existence of social life
in all its diversity. The large communities (for instance, the states) that make up the
modern world are immensely elaborate with diverse systems in terms of their ethnic,
national, religious, and other characteristics where human beings are representatives of
different groups. First of all, tolerance means that all individuals, as well as the groups,
have equal rights. Secondly, every individual and group recognises and accepts the right
of the other parties to have different opinions, thoughts, will, and behaviour. Otherwise,
interpersonal and inter-group disagreements and conflicts, i.e. intolerance, will lead the
society to destruction.
During the twenty-eight session of the General Conference of UNESCO, held from
October 25th to November 16th, 1995, the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance was
discussed and approved by member states. According to UNESCO’s Declaration,
tolerance is defined as the respect, acceptance, and appreciation of the rich diversity of
our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. However,
tolerance is not merely a matter of recognizing and respecting the beliefs and practices of
others but recognizing and respecting themselves, as an individual and as a member of
the social or ethnic group or class to which they belong. This is particularly the case with
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tolerance of racial and sexual differences in which the targets are often individuals as
representatives of their particular ethnicity or sex.
Tolerance is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought,
conscience, and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty it
is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible,
contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
This definition clearly indicates that mutual understanding and co-operation between
groups with different ethnicities, religions, political ideologies, and economic status is
essential not only to communal and world peace, but also to the very survival of societies.
Tolerance is the beginning, the first stage in a longer, deeper process of developing a
culture of peace. It is the minimal essential quality of social relations that eliminate
violence and coercion. Without tolerance, peace is not possible. With tolerance panoply
of positive human and social possibilities can be pursued, including the evolution of a
culture of peace and the convivial communities that comprise it.
• Tolerance is defined as the respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity
of our world’s cultures, our forms of expressions and ways of being human
• The essence of tolerance is the right of people to behave according to their beliefs,
even when there are others who disagree with that belief.
• Tolerance is not a compromise, forgiveness or encouragement of negative behaviour.
In its essence, tolerance is an active attitude on the basis of recognition of the
established universal human rights and freedoms. Tolerance should never be used to
justify the curtailment of these fundamental values.
• Being tolerant means not to exert any pressure on anyone to change his/her beliefs, to
respect opposite opinions, habits, and to be free from prejudices.
• Tolerance is broadly interpreted as the willingness of individuals to accept the right of
everyone to be different. It means to respect the opinions of others without being
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• Tolerance is a responsibility that contributes to the establishment of human rights,
pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. The notion of
tolerance involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the
standards set out in international human rights instruments.
• To practice tolerance, which is equivalent to respecting the human rights, does not
mean to tolerate social injustice, to reject one’s own opinions or to yield to the
opinions of others. Tolerance means that every human being is free to have and to
insist on his or her own convictions and recognises that others have the same right.
• Tolerance means that human beings are naturally different in their appearance,
posture, speech, behaviour and values, and that they have the right to live in peace
and to preserve their individuality. It also means that the views of one person must
not be forced upon other people.
Tolerance is not to be confused with “open-mindedness” in the sense of the word that
denotes being completely neutral or permissive about all beliefs and practices whatever
they are. Open-mindedness of this kind may arise because one believes every belief or
practice to be as good as any other: that all beliefs and practices are of equal moral
weight and value, and that none is especially justified over another. This kind of radical
relativism may assume the incommensurability of all value systems that no value system
can be preferred over another, or it may simply signal indifference or pessimism about all
values by whoever holds them. Whichever the case, the pessimism that one cannot
sustain any value system at all is a position which very few people really hold or want to
hold, even those who feel every bit as uncomfortable with the notion of absolute moral
truths or objective values. Such a stance would render the morality of the racist, fanatic,
or rapist as acceptable or unacceptable.
This point of open-mindedness is an important one because some people seem to think
that being tolerant requires one to have weak beliefs or a permissive attitude, to lack
commitment to any system of values whatsoever. This attitude arises because such
persons believe that thinking that others are mistaken is incompatible with being tolerant
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towards them, that being tolerant actually assumes an attitude of absolute uncritical
acceptance of the other or of the viewpoint of the other.
Ideas do not get implemented and become a reality automatically. One of the most
important challenges for every society and the humankind is to turn the notion of
tolerance into reality.
The Declaration on Principles of Tolerance states that it is the moral duty and legal
requirement of every human being, group, and state to implement tolerance. However,
stating this requirement alone is not sufficient enough to strengthen its notion. This leads
to another challenge: to use education and upbringing to turn tolerance into a way of
thinking, a moral value, the guiding value of all individuals and social groups, i.e. to form
an individual that who has embraced the culture of tolerance.
When making decisions individuals and social groups that have embraced the culture of
tolerance are always guided by the principle that “we” comes before “I.” The culture of
tolerance is such a complete system of moral and spiritual capabilities that it involves
impeccably tolerant behaviour. Such behaviour is determined not so much by external
factors (for instance, a fear that one will get prosecuted for offending a black person), but
by inner moral motives. Just like a moral person is ashamed of breaking some moral
norms (for instance, lying, going naked in public), a person who has embraced the culture
of tolerance is ashamed of being intolerant, aggressive, or mean. For such a person,
tolerance becomes a value (objective) for example, love and friendship that guide his or
her personal (and therefore group) consciousness and activities.
Thus, tolerance is a virtue that makes peace possible and contributes to the replacement
of the culture of war by a culture of peace.
Tolerance as a word was already present in ancient times, but became a problem in
the XVI century due to religious wars. During that time the call for tolerance meant
non-persecution for religious beliefs and practices. A tolerant political system is a
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system that does not impose upon religious communities. Laws were enacted to
protected religious freedom, but tolerance is not implemented simply by laws. It
refers also to attitudes, feelings and behaviours, which is where the problem begins,
because tolerance is often understood as indifference. The essence of tolerance is the
right of people to behave according to their beliefs, even if we do not like it. Being
tolerant means not pressuring anyone to change their beliefs, respecting conflicting
opinions and habits, and being free from prejudices.
Tolerance is broadly interpreted as the willingness of individuals to accept the right of
everyone to be different. It means respect for the opinions of others without being
judgmental. This value comes from individuals rather than the State. However, the
State should take measures to ensure respect for all human beings and to encourage
tolerant attitudes, because tolerance contributes to the maintenance of peace and
Becoming more tolerant means learning new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.
This is a difficult and deeply individual process. To grow in this process, we need
help. Prejudiced attitudes and behaviours often have their source in fear, insecurity
and anger, feelings, which we all share from time to time. When we recognise our
feelings we can become aware of our rationalizations and then we can start to
develop tolerant habits.
Philosophers, theologians, lawyers, sociologists, and psychologists define tolerance
in various ways. We experience tolerance every time we are confronted with
diversity. We can simply practice tolerance as acceptance of diversity of others and
as taking responsibility for oneself. The acceptance of others does not mean, for
instance, total acceptance of aggressive, discriminatory attitudes of others,
acceptance of hate speech or violence. This is a vital problem for each human being,
family, or state and is currently the subject of many debates. But here we focus on
the interpersonal level in order to understand why tolerance is practiced, or not
practiced. Why is it so hard to accept others, even when they are not harmful, just
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different? Because they often reflect the part of us, which we do not like and do not
want in ourselves. This is a mechanism difficult to bring to personal awareness for
When we feel disconnected with unwanted personal feelings, we cannot
acknowledge that we project them onto others. Why is taking responsibility for our
own opinions, feelings and behaviours so crucial? Because, only when we face our
own negative stereotypes and prejudices can we better understand our relationships
with others. The first step is to acknowledge that we have opinions and feelings
towards others, and we create them, not others. Only we can produce our own
feelings of nervousness, anxiety, or violence, not others. There are many reasons
why we do this. Since looking at the source of our own feelings and behaviours is so
hard, we tend to blame others, as if they were the reason of our irritation, anxiety, or
violence. Taking responsibility for our own anger, not looking for the scapegoat, is
to be tolerant. “I am angry” instead of “he/she made me angry.” This seems to be
very simple and yet so hard in everyday practice.
• Describe an event when you were wrong in your opinion about someone else.
• What was the basis of your first opinion?
• What caused you to discover your mistake?
• How did you feel?
The purpose of this exercise is to acknowledge that we may misjudge others and
others may misjudge us. What is vital is to go further and question our opinions, let
people know us and let ourselves know others.
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It will be easier to take responsibility for all our feelings when we accept that there
are no good or bad feelings, there are only good or bad expressions of these feelings,
and good or bad reactions caused by these emotions. Sometimes our opinions are
wrong. However, we cannot challenge them if we are afraid to have contact with
other people.
Intolerance and Violence
“What differs from each other is in accordance; harmony consists of
conflict of contradictions, for instance lyre and bow”.
On the one hand, intolerance has a constructive and positive influence. Being tolerant
does not mean to tolerate and accept absolutely everything. Unprincipled toleration of
everything can lead to the corrosion of the societies foundation. For instance, a state must
not tolerate and fail to bring to justice those who perpetrate premeditated murders or
terrorists. On the other hand, intolerance plays a corroding and anti-social role, because it
leads to the worsening of the moral and psychological climate in the society, which in
turn leads to violence and victims. For example, the spread of racist ideology as one of
the manifestations of intolerance fosters an increase in racial violence and killings.
Therefore, intolerance can sometimes be built upon false inhuman values. It is this type
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of intolerance that threatens the existence of a human society. Some severe forms of
intolerance are sexism, racism, aggressive nationalism, xenophobia, exploitation,
religious fanaticism, and political repression. Why? because they become a pretext for
starting offensive actions. Subsequently, the danger is essentially that the people or
groups of people, who are characterised by intolerance based on false or distorted values,
are always prepared to insult, oppress and attack those they do not like. Intolerance is the
first precondition for resorting to attacks and conflicts, wars, and violence.
In the most general terms, intolerance can be defined as a negative, rejecting position or
attitude towards another person or a group of people. Intolerance derives from the belief
that one’s own group; belief system or way of life is superior to those of others. It can
produce a range of consequences from simple lack of civility or ignoring others, through
elaborate social systems such as apartheid, or the intentional destruction of a people in
the perpetuation of genocide. All such actions originate in the denial of the fundamental
worth of the person. Consequently, the overriding goal of education of tolerance is an
appreciation of and respect for the human dignity and integrity of all persons. This
is the core value of all human-rights theory and international standards. It is the principal
motivation behind efforts to achieve peace and the inspiration for democratic form of
government; it is the antithesis of intolerance. The three monotheistic religions, namely
Judaism, Christianity and Islam support and defend the concept of dignity of the person.
Intolerance is a symptom that carries the potential of a life-threatening social illness –
violence. Policy makers, educators, indeed all citizens, need to recognise the symptoms
or indicators of intolerance and to take appropriate action. Curative policies and actions
must be designed and undertaken immediately when the symptoms appear. Intolerance
must be confronted if violence is to be avoided.
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Intolerance is often described as the unwillingness to accept the right of people to deviate
from the dominant culture. It stems from a lack of respect for others. It often starts with a
linguistic reduction of a person to a function, an opinion defining a human being in terms of
race, colour, gender or religion.
Among the causes of intolerance are prejudice, feelings of superiority, and the need to find a
scapegoat to blame for social or economic ills.
In order to build global peace it is crucial first to build peace inside of us, to face our own
prejudices and then to build justice, deeper respect for diverse persons and compassion for
those who are outside our immediate surroundings.
Negative intolerance, which is an element of the culture of war and which rejects the
culture of peace, manifests itself in ignoring a person or a group of people and forming an
extremely unfavourable opinion of them. We show our intolerance every time we say we
don’t like someone. In other words, an intolerant person is the one who is usually
prepared to give a negative assessment (with words or in any other way) to other people,
to show animosity towards them on whatever grounds.
As a psychological point of view (the conviction of superiority), intolerance in
heterogeneous, multiethnic, multi-religious, and multicultural societies can produce a
range of negative consequences: lack of civility, contempt and animosity towards other
people, violations of human rights, violence, and armed clashes. It is a horrible
occurrence when intolerance penetrates into the area of politics and government, which
could result in widespread violence, racial discrimination, and genocide. In all of the
above-mentioned cases, the idea of the fundamental value of the individual is denied.
Violence is a social disease caused by intolerance. It takes joint efforts to protect the
society and social well being from this “disease.” In these circumstances, in addition to a
long and comprehensive study of peace, human rights, and democracy (which is perhaps
the most efficient way of fighting this phenomenon), it is necessary to make every effort
to recognise the early “symptoms” of intolerance and to take appropriate actions. Policy
makers, educators and generally all citizens must be able to recognise the “symptoms” of
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intolerance and to take appropriate actions. Preventive policies should be designed and
implemented immediately when the “symptoms” appear. In order to build global peace, it
is crucial first to build peace within us, to stay away from prejudices and then to build
justice, a climate of deep respect for diverse individuals, compassion for those who are
outside our immediate surroundings.
• Describe someone you really do not like: his/her personality, behaviour and
• What do you dislike the most about this person?
• And now describe yourself as a person who really does not like someone.
• What do you look like?
• How do you express yourself?
• How do you feel?
This exercise allows us to distance ourselves from our emotions when we encounter
negative feelings towards others. Distance makes us more aware of our behaviour
when we experience negative feelings.
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Tolerance and Human Rights
Tolerance is essential to the awareness of human rights and the achievement of peace
Fundamentally, tolerance is the right to have their persons and identities respected.
Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural
pluralism), democracy, and the rule of the law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and
absolutism, and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
The modern political and social values from which the current international standards of
human rights have evolved were first articulated in a call for tolerance as fundamental to
the maintenance of social order. The Western political philosophers articulated the
necessity of tolerance to a society that could no longer tolerate the intolerance and strife
of the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The recognition of
tolerance as a fundamental component of peace among nations was a significant part of
the historical climate that lead to the emergence of the first modern declaration of rights
that culminated three centuries later in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It has become apparent that much of the inter-group strife enflamed by intolerance
derives from peoples’ insistence on the rights to determine their own political, social and
economic affairs. As the Universal Declaration points out, violence can be the
consequence of the repression of democratic aspirations, just as it can be the result of
intolerance. A major function of democracy is to facilitate political change and mediate
political differences without violence. Thus, the element of democracy becomes
essentially interlocked with peace, human rights, and tolerance.
The achievement of these four values in the world society would constitute the basis of a
‘culture of peace’. Any culture is fundamentally the result of learning. A culture of peace
thus requires an education planned and guided by the values of peace, human rights,
democracy, and at its very core, tolerance.
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Tolerance Enshrined in {PRIVATE }International Instruments
Intolerance has left its negative traces throughout the history of civilization. The idea of
tolerance historically matured and developed in Europe, in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. Destructive religious wars and constant social upheavals led the Europeans of
that time to believe that the disruption of religious unity was inevitable. It is necessary to
be tolerant towards other religions to establish public order. The leading thinkers of that
time (John Lock, Voltaire and others) dedicated whole works to the idea of tolerance. In
their works, they regarded tolerance a human virtue. This virtue includes the tolerance
towards differences between the people, the ability to live without disturbing the others,
the ability to have rights and freedoms without violating the rights and freedoms of
Right from the beginning tolerance was regarded as a philosophy of diversity and
endurance of humankind. Any society without ethnic, social, and cultural homogeneity
needs tolerance. Consequently, a tolerant attitude towards social and cultural differences,
towards the opinions, beliefs, and behaviours of others is one of the fundamental
principles of world civilisation. In addition to a philosophic understanding of tolerance
and the need for it, one of the urgent challenges for humanity is to turn it into a way of
thinking for every individual, social group, ethnic group, and political force. The
awareness of this challenge led to the fact that the idea of tolerance penetrated into the
area of international law and was enshrined in international instruments. This penetration
is the first stage in the process of replacing the culture of war and intolerance with a
culture of peace and tolerance.
The first steps toward the inclusion of the idea of tolerance in international legal
instruments were already taken at the end of the nineteenth century. Therefore, the 1894
Geneva Convention required to show respect for every soldier’s person and to recognise
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23. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
the neutrality of medical personnel in times of war. This idea culminated in the
development of rules for treating prisoners of war and the establishment of the
International Committee of Red Cross. The League of Nations also became involved in
establishing ideas of tolerance. In 1926, the League passed a document proclaiming
slavery to be illegal.
The idea of tolerance became urgent immediately after the end of the Second World War
and it prompted a need for a new culture of politics, philosophy, and functioning. The UN
and its other organizations put the universal ideas, including tolerance, at the basis of
their activities. The seemingly utopian ideas of legal equality, respect for human rights,
and tolerance gradually established them in the law and started to be applied in practice.
The UN Charter sets forth the determination of the United Nations to keep the future
generations away from the destruction of wars, to re-establish the faith in the fundamental
human rights, the dignity, and value of an individual, to practice tolerance and to live
together in peace as good neighbours.
The Preamble of the UNESCO Charter adopted in 1945 endorses that “the world must be
based on intellectual and moral accord between people.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) proclaims: “Every individual has the
right to the freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and convictions and the right to
express them freely.” According to the Declaration, education must be aimed at full
development of a person and at strengthening the respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms. It must foster mutual understanding, tolerance and friendship
between nations and racial or religious groups.
In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, numerous other well-known
international agreements on human rights have been adopted in the past few years. They
either set forth the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of an individual or
are aimed at prohibiting or eliminating intolerance and various manifestations of
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24. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
discrimination. If we take into consideration that more than half a century has elapsed
since the Second World War and no disaster of such nature and proportions has taken
place ever since, we can say that this is the result of the influence of the international
agreements mentioned above. Nevertheless, the situation is not satisfactory; despite all
the efforts, intolerance and discrimination continue to produce destructive results. Both in
the Cold War years and after, there have been social, religious, cultural, and inter-
civilisation confrontations as well as conflicts in the world. They have often turned into
armed conflicts. Intolerance, in its numerous manifestations, continues to remain a threat
to peace, democracy, and human rights. National and international relations continue to
remain an obstacle for development.
The Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations endorses a provision, which reflects the
determination of member states to practice tolerance and to live together in peace as good
neighbours. The inclusion of this provision in the Charter is not accidental. After the
experience of the extreme nationalism of the nineteenth century and the horrors of the
Second World War, the prevention of intolerance, discrimination, and racism was seen as
essential for maintaining peace. It became the next stage of development of human rights. A
new framework for international cooperation was established. Recognition of the principle
of tolerance was of paramount importance for the effective protection of human rights and
fundamental freedoms. Learning how to live constructively in a diverse world became vital
and working to resolve conflict through mutual agreement became crucial. Hence, the
search for peace through education in accordance with the principles set forth in the UN
Charter began.
Basic human rights instruments providing general protection of human rights and
consequently dealing with the subject of tolerance are the following:
• Charter of the United Nations (1945) and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (1948), which proclaimed non-discrimination declarations,
• Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted in
1948, and
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25. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
• International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), which set a framework
of international law treaties.
Among the instruments addressing the subject of tolerance and providing particular forms of
protection are the following:
• International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
(1965), applying the principle of equality and non-discrimination to every person,
• Declaration of the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons (1971),
• Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, presenting a set of universal principles,
prepared and adopted by UNESCO in 1978,
• Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
• Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination
Based on Religion or Belief (1981), stating that no one shall be subject to
discrimination on the grounds of religion or other belief,
• Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), with non-discrimination as an
important principle, and
• International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and
Members of Their Families (1990), repeating the range of existing rights covered by
the Covenants.
Among the Organization on Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) documents
particularly dealing with freedom of religion and belief are:
• The Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe
(Helsinki, 1975),
• The Concluding Document of the Madrid Meeting of Representatives of the
Participating States of the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe
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26. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
• The Concluding Document of the Vienna Meeting of Representatives of the
Participating States of the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe
• The Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of Representatives of the
Participating States of the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe
• The Charter of Paris for a New Europe (1990),
• The Document of the Moscow Meeting of the Conference on the Human
Dimension of the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe (1991),
• The Budapest Document toward a Genuine Partnership in a New Era (1994),
• The Charter for European Security (Istanbul, 1999).
Among Council of Europe documents are:
• The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms (1950),
• The Protocol no.1 tot he European Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1952),
• The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995).
Among European Union documents are:
• The Treaty Establishing the European Community (1997),
• The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000).
Despite the implementation of various international and domestic instruments, intolerance
and discrimination still occur in various parts of the world. Since the Second World War
various forms of religious, racial, and ethnic intolerance have appeared among school-age
children in many countries.
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Indicators of Intolerance
In planning curative policies and actions for tolerance the degree and type of intolerance
that may be present in the environment in question must be identified and assessed. The
following can be regarded as “symptoms” or indicators of intolerance:
Language: Denigrations and pejorative or exclusive language that devalues, demeans,
and dehumanises cultural, racial, national or sexual groups.
Stereotyping: Describing all members of a group as characterized by the same attributes,
usually negative.
Teasing: Calling attention to particular human behaviour patterns, attributes and
characteristics so as to ridicule or insult.
Prejudice: Judgment on the basis of negative generalizations and stereotypes rather than
on the actual facts of a case or specific behaviour of an individual.
Scapegoating: Blaming traumatic events or social problems on a particular group.
Discrimination: Exclusion from social benefits and activities on primarily prejudicial
Ostracism: Behaving as if the others were not present or did not exist. Refusal to -speak
to or acknowledge others or their culture.
Harassment: Deliberate behaviour to intimidate and degrade others, often intended as a
means of forcing them out of the community, organization or group.
Bullying: Use of superior physical capacity or greater numbers to humiliate others,
deprives them of priority or status, or forces them into particular actions.
Expulsion: Officially or forcefully expelling or denying right of entrance or presence in a
place, social group, profession or any place where group activity occurs,
including those upon which survival depends, such as places of employment or
shelter, etc.
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28. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
Exclusion: Denying possibilities to meet fundamental needs and /or participate fully in
the society, as in particular communal activities.
Segregation: Enforced separation of people of different races, religions or gender, usually
to the disadvantage of one group.
Repression: Forceful prevention of enjoyment of human rights.
These indicators also include the desecration or destruction of cultural and religious
symbols and structures that belong or are of a special value to diverse racial, national and
cultural groups. Forcefully depriving the people who belong to those groups of their
property, forcing them into particular actions, denying them the right to participate in
society, actually expelling them from society or isolating them, limiting or denying the
rights of persons who belong to those groups, subjecting them to violence, all the way to
their physical destruction.
Intolerance can be divided into the following categories depending on the nature and
peculiarities of the social subjects practiced:
• Interpersonal: i.e. intolerant behaviour between two schoolchildren;
• Between a person and a social group. For instance: when one person in the class
is opposed to the rest of the class and vice versa;
• Inter-group, i.e. between different social groups. Social groups can be large or
small, such as school classes, political parties, as well as groups of the rich and
the poor (social and financial classes), women and men, ethnic groups (nations
and peoples), races, civilisations, etc. For example, large civilisations (Western
and Oriental, Christian and Muslim civilisations, etc.) that have been developing
for thousands of years will still last for a long time. Therefore, despite the
differences between them, they must necessarily coexist. In the modern world, it
is necessary to prevent the attempts of any civilisation to take over the others, as
well as any civilisation’s convictions that its principles and values are the only
true ones. No civilisation in the world is superior to any other. There are certain
principles, views, or religious beliefs in a civilisation that are acceptable to those
born into them but not for other civilisations;
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29. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
• Inter-country, when the climate of intolerance exists between individual countries
or between two different groups of countries.
Depending on the area of a person’s activities, intolerance can appear in a family, in
everyday life, in work relations, as well as in political-governmental, cultural, religious,
and many other areas. For example, in the area ofpolitical-governmental, when the state
is intolerant and discriminates against its own citizens who disagree with the views or
policies of the ruling elite, or when individual political groups and parties within that
state engage in a militaristic and belligerent struggle when the political majority has a
negative attitude towards the minority and violently forces its opinion on the latter.
As a Rule, Intolerance Produces a Range of Consequences:
• Discrimination is the curtailment or denial of rights to certain individuals,
organizations or states on the basis of their race, nationality, sex, citizenship, as
well as their property status, political, and religious affiliation. Therefore, one of
the common forms of political discrimination is the denial of the right to vote.
Racial discrimination is much more common.
• Racial discrimination is the curtailment or denial of human rights on the basis of
race. Forms of racial discrimination include apartheid, segregation, etc.
• Apartheid is the policy of racial discrimination and segregation aimed at
establishing the supremacy of one racial group over another that is oppressed and
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30. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
• Segregation is one of the extreme forms of racial discrimination, when the black
population, or people with other skin colour, are separated from the white people.
It is practiced in all areas of public life simultaneously by creating separate
institutions or divisions for the blacks and the whites. For instance, a café or a
restaurant is designated for whites only. Restrictions are made on the choice of
• Sexual discrimination manifests itself in limiting the rights of women as
compared to men, prohibiting or limiting women’s participation in public life and
in government.
• Aggressive nationalism includes the superiority and domination of certain nations
over others.
• Forced assimilation is a special policy conducted by the dominant nation aimed
at assimilating any other ethnic group. As a result, the latter ceases to exist or
loses its national peculiarities.
• Genocide is comprised of actions, the purpose of which is total or partial
annihilation of any national, racial, ethnic or religious group (murder of members
of such groups, infliction of serious bodily or mental harm on such persons,
prevention of childbirth, etc.)
• Anti-Semitism is defined as the expression of animosity towards Jewish people.
• Xenophobia is defined as the hatred and fear of foreigners (strangers). In many
ethnic groups, the hatred of “strangers” is instilled since childhood. For instance,
there is a saying in Arabic that goes like this: “I am against my brother; my
brother and I are against our cousin. We, my brother, my cousin and I, are against
all strangers.” Strangers are always seen as possessing negative characteristics
and are considered a source of danger. Nations and ethnic groups that suffer from
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31. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
xenophobia can resort to any form or method of action towards the foreigners that
would be unacceptable for their own people. Those subjected to xenophobia are
devoid of their natural rights, and no moral or legal requirements apply to them.
• Marginalization is defined as actions that result in a person or a certain group of
people or an ethnic group being forcefully cut off and alienated from their
traditional ethnic, national, religious, moral and political values, or being unable
to accept and adapt to the values of the surrounding “foreign” culture.
Marginalization results in the feeling of alienation and increased aggressiveness in
those people or among the social group, which is potentially very dangerous for
the society.
• Fascism is defined as the rejection of democratic freedoms, the denial of
pluralism and diversity, as well as the institution of general control over
• Religious fanaticism is the imposition of a particular religion and related rites by
forcing all members of the society to participate in them, the establishment of
religious discrimination, etc. Numerous wars have taken place during the Middle
Ages because of religious intolerance. Today, some religions or religious sects
still have a belligerent attitude towards other faiths or sects.
• Political oppression involves the ban on open and free discussion and
dissemination of political ideas, impossibility of free and fair elections, limitations
on the freedom of speech, prosecution for political dissent.
• Exploitation means unfair compensation for work, as well as unreasonable and
ruthless consumption of natural resources.
• Imperialism involves the subjugation of one or several peoples to imperialistic
powers with the aim of controlling the wealth and natural resources of the
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32. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
dependent or colonised people or peoples. Economic domination is accompanied
by the full power of the imperialistic powers in political, ideological, information,
and other areas of public life. The economic and power monopolies of imperialist
states result in the violation of the principle of the equality of countries and the
establishment of conditions for the dominant powers to live at the expense of all
others. Alliances are formed on the international arena through the unification of
representatives of “their own kind.”
Some further Details of Intolerant Attitude
1. Stereotype
“The ancestor of every action is a thought”.
(Ralh Waldo Emerson)
Prejudices are nourished by negative stereotypes of individuals or groups of people.
The word “stereotype” is derived from the Greek words stereós: solid, hard,
petrified, and týpos: pattern, mould. Walter Lippman, an American journalist,
introduced the concept of stereotype to social science in 1922 in his often quoted
work “Public Opinion”. He assumed that stereotypes, “pictures in our heads,” at least
partially, are culturally determined phenomena and are necessary to simplify a
complex reality. Stereotypes are overgeneralizations (often erroneous and
oversimplifying) about reality, other people, based on assumptions and
misinformation rather than on facts. Stereotypes do not take under consideration
enormous varieties of human diversity belonging to a given group. They do not
consider either current circumstance, which surround individuals. What is worse,
stereotypes can lead to prejudices and discriminatory behaviours.
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33. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
Stereotypes can become so ingrained that people accept them without question.
Social stereotypes blind people to individual differences so they ignore each person’s
uniqueness. They are sets of convictions associated with a group, generalized to all
its members.
We learn stereotyping as children listen to the comments of parents, teachers, and
our peers absorbing their opinions, observing their behaviours, watching TV,
listening to music, reading textbooks and comics. Stereotyping makes life easier
because it does not require an independent thought process. It makes the world seem
simpler so we can feel safer.
Since the sixties there have been tendencies to treat stereotypes as normal processes
of categorization, with emphasis on arbitrary characteristics of some social
categories. Stereotypes as any other categories are stored in our long-term memory
as cognitive representations called schemata. We activate them automatically being
unaware and with little effort. There is no pathology in stereotyping, but the content
of stereotypes may be pathogenic.
Traditionally stereotypes were perceived as particularly rigid and resistant to change.
Not all researchers nowadays share this view. They serve also various functions:
oversimplify complex reality and allow categorizing when information is limited.
Main functions of stereotypes are: adjusting (supplying the feeling of cognitive
control in social situations), defensive and reducing fear (improving self-esteem,
especially when positive self-stereotype is confronted with a negative hetero-
stereotype), indicative of distinctions between dominant groups and the minority
group, strengthening in-group value against taking “foreign” values, channelling
aggression and justifying attack on others, assuring foreseeing human behaviour,
communicative, manipulative, political, and propaganda.
The less information we have about a person, the more likely we are to respond to
him or her in terms of stereotypes. The stereotypes of various ethnic, cultural, or
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34. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
religious groups are widely known to members of a society, and may often affect
What can we do to reduce stereotypes in our lives?
1. Focus on every person as an individual.
2. Become more aware of stereotypes and how they interfere with our ability to
perceive and interact with people.
3. Remember that there are more differences within a group than between groups.
4. Recognise that we are all part of many groups, none of which can totally explain
or define who we are.
5. Learn to look at things from another person’s point of view.
6. Be willing to learn more about the culture and background of people different
from yourselvesi.
2. Prejudice
“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely
rearranging their prejudices”.
(William James)
There can be no war without prejudice. Often colour, race, and religion are partial
causes of prejudice. The word “prejudice” comes from the Latin words prae: before,
and judicum: judgement. The term prejudice is often used synonymously with ‘bias’,
and it is defined as a negative, emotional attitude toward certain groups and their
members based on inaccurate stereotypes. Prejudices give the feeling of controlling
reality. Since they allow describing the world in a supposedly consistent way, they
fulfil the feeling of security. When we think of others we should realize that we do
not react to reality, but to our image of reality.
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Prejudice is defined as a negative attitude, emotion or behaviour towards members of
a group on account of their membership of that group. Some researchers believe that
personality factors are crucial in determining prejudice, some see situational and
socio-economic factors as a determinant factor. Prejudiced attitudes, manifested most
frequently within ethnic and gender groups, can be already found among very small
People have the tendency to categorize the world and underline differences between
various categories and diminish differences within a category. The categorization
process causes stereotyping. When groups have conflicting goals and are in
competition, it may also lead to prejudice. Many attitudes toward others depend upon
one’s childhood guidance, as well as attitudes moulded by parents, teachers, media,
and social environment.
We all categorize people. List types of people (not concrete persons) whom you
would divide into the following categories:
• People who get on our nerves,
• People whom you avoid,
• People you are afraid of because of their behaviour.
This exercise allows us to see how easily we put people we are afraid of into certain
categories. Categories are convenient. They save us time in processing information.
Prejudices may cause extermination of millions of people. Prejudices influence our
economics, our politics, and the behaviour of man toward man, nation toward nation,
and countries toward countries. The Old Testament teaches to “Love thy neighbour
as thy self,” and this means no prejudice. The Buddhists teach to “Treat thy brother
as thy self” but other religions teach that they are the only one offering salvation.
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Prejudiced ideas and attitudes are acquired. People with feelings of superiority often
feel jealous or inferior toward others. Frustrations, rejections and jealousies motivate
All, together with the teacher, stand on one side of the classroom. The teacher
will call out various categories of people. Those who identify with a given
category go to the other side of the room. Participation in this exercise is
The teacher says to the students: “See how you feel when you go to the other
side of the room”. See how you walk.
• What is going on with you when you walk to the other side?
• If you did not go, think why?
• See who is with you? Who is not with you?
• Who is missing?
• Do not comment
On the other side of the classroom separate in groups: all boys, all girls,
tolerant, discriminated, Catholics, Muslims, lonely, popular, shy, etc.
Students can invent their own categories. It is important not to talk during this
exercise, but share experiences afterwards (for those who need it).
The main purpose of this exercise is to experience that we belong to many different
groups; we share elements of our identity with those from other groups.
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Many individuals and groups are rejected because of prejudice; and rejected people
become prejudiced against those who have done the rejecting. Rejection begets
rejection. Superiority is overcompensation for inferiority. Some prejudices are
defences against one’s own feelings of inferiority or inadequacy, jealousy,
misinformation about others, rejections of others feelings of insecurity because of
imaginary or real threats, identification with an enemy or enemies against one or
more people, or having been rejected or frustrated by a person. Can we wipe out
prejudice? No! But we can limit many serious prejudices through law, training, and
Write down characteristics of each of the following groups:
• Fat people,
• Jews,
• Homosexuals,
• The rich,
• Men,
• Women,
• Teachers
The purpose of this exercise it to experience that the negative stereotypes we hear or
see, coming from parents, friends, colleagues, and teachers are often stored in our
subconscious. In some circumstances our behaviour can be influenced by feelings of
hurt or frustration as a result of being treated with injustice. This exercise may also
make us aware of internalised negative stereotypes about our own group.
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Beginning with Allport's book The Nature of Prejudice published in 1954, academics
have done many studies and experiments to determine the reasons for intolerance.
Many results support Allport's main idea: We are all born with the potential for
tolerance or intolerance. Whether we become tolerant or intolerant depends to a great
extent on how we are treated in our families.
Prejudiced people are prejudiced in similar ways. They share certain common
• They generally are afraid of failure;
• They are not able to deal with changing situations and with frustration;
• They lack self-awareness;
• They do not know that they are the primary victims of self-intolerance;
• They have low self-esteem. To have any self-esteem at all, they have to consider
themselves stronger, smarter, or better in some other way than those around
• They lack trust in themselves and in other people;
• Not feeling safe, and not being able to deal with ambiguities, they construct a
world-view and a vision of themselves that masks their real feelings and gives
them a false sense of belonging;
• Some need to hate in the same way that others need to abuse painkilling
• Some became addicted to hate and to the hate-object;
• For some of them the level of their hate towards the group picked for
scapegoating reflects the intensity of their unconscious self-hate.
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Prejudices are a convenient screen on which they can project topics and
interpretations important to them. Among features of prejudices are the lack of
consistency and the allowance to describe the world supposedly in a consistent way.
Prejudices give feelings of controlling reality, fulfil feelings of security, are
economical, and therefore make acting and thinking easy. They serve a
communicative function, may influence and create reality. Another factor
determining their durability is that dominant groups benefit from prejudices and the
stigmas attached to subordinate groups are deep in our subconscious. Experimental
studies bring pessimistic outcomes, in reference to control the propagation of
prejudice and negative stereotypes, confirming that they are activated automatically,
influencing behaviour of the object and subject of an interaction.
Next, prejudices fulfil people’s need for consistency. One more factor is crucial for
understanding inter-group dynamics, that members of the subordinate groups have
been socialized by the value system of the dominant group. They grow up believing
that their group is inferior. All prejudices involve distance.
We all have prejudices but, unless we are aware of them, we are not likely to be able
to help others to overcome their prejudices. For some people, reluctance to explore
our own prejudices often comes from fear that we will not be able to control the
anger and guilt accompanying this process. For others it may come from a memory
of being hurt and discriminated against. Emotional deprivation, in other words, lack
of fulfilment of basic and emotional needs, may nourish prejudiced attitudes.
Prejudices can be self-fulfilling. Belief that a person has certain characteristics or
attitudes may itself lead to “evidence” of that belief. Prejudices are in part a
reflection of norms. They remain relatively stable as long as norms remain stable.
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40. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
Complete these sentences below: compare the sentences and discuss with a
classmate. Whenever they contain prejudices, and in case they do, which factors
could cause it (TV, newspapers, friends, attitudes of parents)?
• People on welfare are....
• In our country ..........are..........
• All politicians are...........
• When I meet ..............
• All people with AIDS are...........
• I dislike ............whom...........
• All homosexuals are.............
What Helps to Overcome Negative Stereotypes and Prejudices?
There are several factors in challenging our own bias and that of others. Among them
• Changing social climate such that prejudice becomes contrary to norms,
• Adoption of tolerant child-rearing practices,
• Contact between members of different groups; provided that certain conditions
are met: equal status of groups, support from authority, i.e. teacher, the contact is
intimate and pleasant; cooperation between members of particular groups,
• Setting examples of positive attitudes toward other groups and tolerance in mass
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• Learning about our own religious and cultural heritage,
• Learning about other religious, cultural heritage, history, and customs,
• Acknowledging differences and similarities, among and between individuals and
• Revealing the uniqueness of each individual,
• Building awareness of diversity, ancestry, traits, and customs that other ethnic,
religious or cultural groups have,
• Enhancing self-esteem and self-security to become confident about ourselves,
• Developing critical thinking skills in order to distinguish between reality and
fiction, fact and opinion,
• Understanding that overgeneralizations may lead to negative stereotypes,
• Building empathy toward victims of prejudice through direct experience,
• Examining our own and other people’s behaviour toward others,
• Interacting with peers who differ from us.
3. Xenophobia
“We are born helpless. As soon as we are
Fully conscious we discover loneliness.
We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually;
We need them if we are to know anything,
even ourselves”.
(C.S. Lewis)
Such phenomena as: “xenophobia,” “prejudice,” “intolerance,” ”ethnocentrism,” and
even “nationalism” overlap in their manifestations and, often, partially in theoretical
considerations. What bridge them are positive attitudes toward our own group and
negative ones toward strangers. Xenophobia literally means fear of strangers, from
the Greek word xenos: strange and phobia: a fear or aversion. It is a form of
prejudice that is the fear of strangers or outsiders. This term has been applied
recently mainly in the context of attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers in
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42. Towards a Culture of Tolerance and Peace
Western Europe. When ideology or power relations are involved then xenophobia,
seen as a universal phenomenon, and ethnocentrism, characteristic of all groups,
become racist, the last step of ethnic attitudes.
4. Nationalism
The term was formulated after the French Revolution. Nationalism is an ideology
that the world is naturally divided into distinct groups. It argues that each group of
people has a set of characteristics, which identify it as a “nation.” It also maintains
that these groups should be able to create institutions and laws to determine their
own future. Political movements and strategies emerging from this ideology, since
the nineteenth century, had a major influence on the way in which the world is
organized politically.
5. Ethnocentrism
The term “ethnocentrism” was introduced by William Graham Sumner in
“Folkways” (1906), who describes ethnocentrism as an attitude in which our own
group values are taken as basis for other groups’ descriptions. As he wrote,
ethnocentrism is “a view of things in which one’s own group is the centre of
everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it”. The term
contains two Greek words: ethnos: nation and kentron: centre.
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In the authoritarian personality theory of Adorno et al. (1950), ethnocentrism is one
of the major symptoms. Therefore, it is a feature of only some people, not a universal
phenomenon. The term “authoritarianism” includes such traits as: intolerance of
ambiguity, conservatism, and projectivity. It is strictly related to childhood
experiences and claimed to be a predictor of ethnocentrism, anti-Semitism, and
racism. Ethnocentrism is a mechanism by which people can achieve a positive self-
image by identifying themselves with their own group, perceived as better, and by
regarding other groups as inferior. This mechanism is applied to all groups in
Some researchers want to see ethnocentrism as our innate characteristic (among the
arguments is a fear of strangers in infants). Anthropological theory of ethnocentrism
explains ethnocentric tendency to treat one’s own culture as morally superior
compared to other cultures, a tendency to value other cultures according to one’s
own standards, a tendency to perceive other cultures as deviated, not taking into
consideration the existence of differences. Homogenous, traditional, and isolated
societies not having contacts with diversity, according to this approach, tend to
evaluate and judge others in terms of good and bad.
Other sets of theories focus on struggles for power or material goods between
different ethnic groups and on conflicting interests.
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6. Anti-Semitism
“Ultimately, whoever hates, hates his brother.
And when he hates his brother, he hates himself”.
(Elie Wiesel)
Anti-Semitism has been known for more than two thousand years. The term “anti-
Semitism,” introduced in 1879 by the German writer Wilhelm Marr, is clear to Jews but
very complex for scholars. Some descriptions divide anti-Semitism into economic,
racial, social, and theological dimensions. Modern anti-Semitism, in contrast to earlier
forms, was based not on religious practices of the Jews but on the theory that Jews
are an inferior race.
There can be various ways of interpreting racism. If the Jews are discriminated
against as a race, anti-Semitism should be treated as a manifestation of racism.
Whereas in the United States, racism can be interpreted as related to skin colour, the
historical connotation of the term “anti-Semitism” should be kept in mind also. The
concept of the Jews as a race was present in the Nazis’ rhetoric, and it led to the
almost total annihilation of European Jewry.
Currently anti-Semitism is studied together with nationalism, social distance,
ethnocentrism, ethnic stereotype, and prejudice. Anti-Semitism is studied also in
terms of the Holocaust and also as an indicator of frustration, anxiety, and
hopelessness in society, typical of transition periods. The main component of anti-
Semitism nowadays is an idea of a collective, conspiring enemy.
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Share your own personal experience related to racism, anti-Semitism or another
form of prejudice or discrimination. If you do not feel free to talk about your
own personal experience, talk about prejudices of your colleagues or about
attitudes full of prejudices, which you have seen on TV or in a movie.
7. Discrimination
The concept of discrimination is often referred to as intolerance. It is widely
understood as an impact of prejudice on our behaviour or behavioural intentions to
exclude a group or its members from certain domains in society. As studies have
shown, the relationship between prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behaviour is
not consistent. There are claims among researchers that discrimination towards target
groups has decreased due to three main factors: First, members of the target groups
had to advocate for themselves. Second, dominant group members advocate for
change. Third, powerful members of the dominant group made changes in the law.
But discrimination may occur not only between groups but between individuals as
well. Someone experiencing discrimination may discriminate against others,
completely unrelated to the primary source of discrimination. This mechanism, when
we direct feelings of anger or hostility against people who are not related to the
origins of our anxiety, is called displacement. We pick scapegoats to blame as a
source of our trouble. The “scapegoat” term originated in the Hebrew ritual
described in the Book of Leviticus, where the signs of people were symbolically
transferred to a goat taking them to the desert. Scapegoating involves projection.
Instead of facing unwanted characteristics, individuals, or groups project them onto
others. This mechanism is frequent as it gives us a positive self-image. What we do
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not accept in ourselves, we can try to attribute to others, so we feel good, right, and
positive. This is an illusion. Minority groups with distinctive characteristics, such as
Roma, blacks, Asians, Mexicans, Jews, and particularly those with little power to
fight back, are often blamed for almost anything, unemployment, low salaries,
crimes, etc.
People upon whom the negative characteristics are projected may internalise them
and distance themselves from individuals or groups who remind them of it. Often
provoked, they behave as if it is expected from them, thus putting in force the self-
fulfilling prophecy.
Recall the moment when you felt excluded from a group. Describe yourself from
the perspective of the third person, as you would describe this scene from the
• What did you look like?
• What did you say?
• What did you do?
• How did others treat you?
Accept that:
• There is more than one way to look at things,
• We can learn and develop by listening to others,
• No one has the answer to everything,
• We create our own opinions and make decisions and only we ourselves are
responsible for them.
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Think of examples of behaviour in the following categories:
• Avoidance – ignoring people, escaping from contact,
• Verbal hostility – jokes, teasing, name calling,
• Unfairness – excluding someone form a group, not helping people,
• Physical attack
Research the anti-discrimination laws in your country. Find out the name of the
law, when it was enacted, for what purpose and how it is enforced.
8. Conflict
Conflict is an incompatibility of actions or goals. We can distinguish conflicts
between individuals, groups, and nations. In international conflict history, ideology,
and economics are involved. Conflict often entails reciprocal views of one another.
Each group in conflict may view itself as moral and peace loving, and the other as
aggressive and evil. This is called a mirror-image perception. When groups are in
competition or conflict, or members of one group fear those of another,
discrimination in favour of one’s own group, and unfavourable attitudes toward
members of the other groups become norms.
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Read about conflict in a newspaper or magazine. Try to determine the structure
of the conflict. Discuss in pairs the possible solutions of the conflict. Compare
solutions with your classmates. Together evaluate the resolution of the conflict.
9. Ethnicity
This term comes from the Greek work ethnickis, the adjective of ethnos. This refers
to a people or nation. Nowadays ethnicity has been variously defined. It may be
identified with physical features, a common language, religion, shared ancestry, and
history. The term ethnic group describes a group of people aware of having common
origins, shared experiences and interests.
10. Identity
Identity can be defined as a relatively stable structure of values, feelings and
representations toward oneself. “Me” identity is created both through identification
with parents and other meaningful adults, and through differentiation from them. It
is also developed as a relatively stable set of self-evaluations, self-controls, and the
control of one’s own life and immediate environment.
Among the spheres of identity it is possible to list: history, concrete territory and
social group, culture, language, customs, religion, transfer of tradition, historical
genealogy, personality, ethnic stereotypes, economic condition, social needs and
aims, life goals, life models, political, economic contexts, and worldviews.
Language, apart from tradition or religion, is one of the crucial elements of culture
determining identity.
Ethnic identity relates to a sense of commonality of origin, beliefs, values, and
customs of a specific group of people.
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The Ethnic Identity Development Exercise (EIDE) is designed to help to explore
the concept of ethnic identity and examine one’s own as well as other ethnic
Materials: markers, crayons, and blank white paper.
Instruction: Now we examine influences, which helped you shape a sense of
your ethnic identity. On a piece of paper write or draw the different factors (for
example, important relationships with people, events, activities, media,
literature, art, religious, spiritual, and educational activities, organizations,
travels) that have helped to shape how you feel and think about yourself as part
of a particular ethnic group. Include anything you feel has been relevant in your
life. Take about 30 minutes and use whatever materials (markers, paper, etc.)
you feel can help you make this description more complete.
After students complete this exercise, they should break into small groups, of
three or four, to discuss their drawings and answer each other’s questions.
Discussion may include the following questions:
• How did you decide what to draw?
• How would you describe your EIDE in your own words and images?
• What feelings, thoughts, and reactions do you have in response to other
EIDEs in your small group?
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Next, the drawings should be displayed or passed around. The class should end
with one large group discussion. Its purpose is to obtain detailed information
about ethnic identity, and to compare and contrast experiences. Discussion may
include the following questions:
• What sort of themes emerged from doing this exercise?
• Was it difficult to complete this exercise?
• Why or why not?
• What reactions do you have from your small group meeting?
• Are there within- and across-group differences and similarities in the
• What common influences, people, events were typically involved in this
developmental process?
• What else would you have liked to include in this exercise?
• How did this exercise influence your ideas about concepts of ethnic
11. Racism
“We...are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the
hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it
can be seen and dealt with”.
(Matin Luther King, Jr.)
The most widespread prejudice throughout the world is racism - prejudice directed
toward members of certain racial or ethnic groups. Racist attitudes precede the
notion of “race” as inherited features, coming from the thought of Count Joseph
Arthur de Gobineau, Adolf Hitler, Ku-Klux-Klan and extreme right-wing group
ideology. Psychologists have offered many theories to explain why racism evolves.
The term has many meanings in different settings and for different purposes; in
modern societies it is an unacceptable phenomenon. Although the concept of racism
is used in various ways, it always contains the idea of exclusion of certain ethnically
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defined groups from various domains of public life. In other words, it is understood
as a complex of factors, which produce disadvantage on the basis of race. Two main
senses of the term are: the ideology or set of beliefs about racial superiority, i.e.
scientific racism of the nineteenth century, and the popular term “racism” based on
ethnocentrism, a tendency to believe that one’s own culture is universal, neutral and
superior to any other culture.
In social psychology literature, it is possible to distinguish three forms of racism:
traditional or biological, modern or symbolic, and aversive, depending on different
arguments or justifications for the exclusion of ethnic groups. Biological racists
believe in the innate superiority of races, symbolic racists argue that out-groups pose
a threat to the culture of in-groups, and aversive racists feel uneasiness and
uncertainty in contact with ethnic groups. Traditional racist beliefs related to
biological superiority of white people are being replaced by the so-called new
racism, rooted in feelings that one’s way of life is threatened by foreign cultures. The
goal of young racists is a “racially pure” society. The neo-Nazi skinhead movement,
which arose in the US in mid-eighties, is now present in 33 countries. It numbers
some 70,000 youth worldwide.
Racist movements using anti-immigrant hostile slogans have grown in Europe since
the mid-1980s. In the 1990s, after the fall of Communism, neofascist political
movements spread widely both in Western and Eastern Europe. In the context of
expectations created by political reforms and the everyday deprivations, extreme
nationalists were able to attract support by blaming minorities, such as Roma and
Jews for social and economic ills. The Vlaams Blok in Belgium, the Front National
in France, and Deutsche Volksunion in Germany used immigration and anti-
Semitism as key words in their political campaigns. Physical attacks on racial and
ethnic minorities, Turks in Germany and Roma in Hungary, Czech Republic and
Romania, accompanied the defence of “national” interest rhetoric.
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In several countries there was a reaction against the wave of racists attacks, including
self-defence strategies of minority communities and demonstrations of antiracist
groups against violence aimed at foreigners, minorities, and refugees.
Students are divided into groups of five or six. Half of the groups are given the
task to create a Global Nation. These groups exploit values of extreme
nationalism to create a global nation against the alien invaders. The remaining
groups are given the Integration and Plurality task and are asked to devise
strategies to appeal to the liberal principles and to plead for integration of the
aliens who would enrich national culture and increase plurality.
This exercise can be followed by a session analysing any current or ongoing
conflict in the world designed to create a separate nation state, such as that in
Canada between Francophone and Anglophones, or in Bosnia among Bosnian
Serbs and Muslims. Students may bring various newspapers of that day, both
respected ones and the more sensational tabloid papers. After the
brainstorming session, each groups is asked to present its arguments for
adopting a particular strategy and to detail the methods by which they would be
The purpose of this exercise is to raise consciousness of the pervasiveness of the
nationalist ideology, and constructs of ethnicity, nationalism, and race. At the end of
the session students should be aware that the concept of the nation should be used for
the benefit and advantage of all groups within the nation.
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Hopeful Signs of Tolerance
Some indicators can be used as both tools of assessment and the basis of designing goals
for learning tolerance. Educational programmes must be directed to integrate these
• Language Indicator: A tolerant society or social group is the one, whose language
lacks racial, ethnic and gender epithets. In addition, in reporting on certain events or
people, the media refrain from using words or expressions that show prejudiced,
biased, offensive, and demeaning attitude. If that particular country has national
minorities, then the preservation and development of minority languages is
• Legal Equality Indicator: In a tolerant society there is legal equality between all
members of the society. Each member of the society has access to social benefits, as
well as an opportunity to participate in the government or public activities regardless
of his or her sex, race, nationality, religion, social class, etc. Legal equality means that
the rights and responsibilities, as well as social freedoms of every member of the
society are equal. As an indicator of tolerance, legal equality also means equal degree
of responsibility before the law for all persons, regardless their factual differences,
such as, the colour of their skin, the language, etc. Legal equality also excludes any
special privileges and advantages accorded by the law to the parties of legal disputes.
• Social Indicator: In a tolerant society, social relations are based on mutual respect for
public accord, assistance and human dignity. In a tolerant society, the minimal social
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