Global Restrictions on Religion – Tolerance ≠ Acceptance

When opening up a newspaper or your online news homepage, you most likely would not have to get very far before seeing recent articles or news items somehow related to religious restrictions or social intolerance of certain religious minority groups. Typing in a Google search with just the word “religion,” the first three items I found had to do with recent turmoil between religious minority groups in various countries (the U.S. being one of them). For some, reading about recent global restrictions on religion or religious minority groups has become somewhat numbing. For others, it begs the question “Have we become less tolerant of our differences?” or “Are we unwilling to move beyond tolerance and failing to accept others different cultural or religious values?” Data tracked by the Pew Research Center on religious restrictions found 5 key trends among 200 different countries (full data set and article at http://pewrsr.ch/1BLqQS1). The two most bothersome findings were finding #4, “More than three-quarters of the world’s people – 77% – live in nations where religious restrictions of some kind (related to either government or social groups) are either high or very high,” and #5, “Obstacles for religious minorities do not usually stand alone, but more often are part of a broader set of restrictions on religion.” When taken together as findings (i.e., living in nations where government or social groups place religious restrictions that are high to very high) the answer to my earlier quandary seems to be that we have become less tolerant AND even those who are tolerant have not fully accepted that which is different. In the February 19th article in The Washington Post about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments on religious tolerance, it illustrates the backlash of the country’s historic struggle and social hostility that not even the country’s leader could remedy (see http://wapo.st/1wwzPVk).

With various groups and world leaders trying to set things right for all people – working for the greater good of all – the existence of intolerance and the lack of acceptance of others is both disheartening… and to some extent frightening. Where does all this hostility come from? Yes, we see the news and we see the rationale that varying groups give in order to justify actions, but is there a deeper reason for our intolerance and lack of acceptance? In Book Two and Book Three of The Last Prophet series, the main character gives some insight into how she sees such actions. Lack of tolerance and/or acceptance can be seen as acts that lack love. In the main character’s words, “If we truly love and accept our neighbor, we will act accordingly.” It may be words from a fictitious character, but there is often some truth in the fiction when characters speak.

While this blog post asks many questions, I am curious to know where you believe the hostility toward others comes from. Are we a less tolerant world? Is full acceptance of the differences between others and ourselves the key to change? Feel free to leave your comments in the space provided.

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Twitter: @claire_gager

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