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Practicing Tolerance
By Maria S., Grade 11, Surrey, BC

The first step in correcting every major evil has been educating the masses; look at alcohol and substance abuse, AIDS and HIV and smoking. I see no reason for religious intolerance, or any intolerance for that matter, to be any different. Indeed, Helen Keller summed it up in her remark, "The highest result of education is tolerance." Since the global community has yet to achieve the elusive goal of religious toleration for all peoples, I can conclude only that education, whether it comes from schools, experiences, or people, is lacking in some respect.

If it is true that a child models his parents' behavior, then parents can better foster religious toleration by setting a positive example. For instance, a parent can encourage his child to attend religious services of other denominations. I remember when I went with a friend to a scavenger hunt four years ago, sponsored by her church, Orchard Park Presbyterian. Before and after the hunt, they formed a circle, joined hands and prayed.

Naturally, being a Hindu, I felt a little uncomfortable at first, but when I started listening to the pastor, I realized there was no reason for my anxiety. She wasn't saying anything belittling or insulting my religion; I no longer felt threatened or alienated, and I enjoyed myself immensely. When I was first invited, I was hesitant to accept, anticipating my initial feeling. However, due to the encouraging of my mother, I went. Thanks, Mom. Parents should also recognize when their child is really getting insulted.

Schools have a tougher job instilling religious toleration among its students. They must be politically correct in every endeavor. However, in trying to shelter minority religions from feeling offended when Christmas time rolls around, the school often destroys the magic of the season.

The best way for schools to foster religious tolerance is to educate the students. That should be right up their alley. More social studies teachers could incorporate projects about world religions into their classes. Religion helps explain the culture of the world's peoples, which is a major goal in social studies. A course on religions of the world could also be introduced into the curriculum as an elective. I have no doubt this class would be welcomed warmly since there has been a push in recent years to understand more about international culture.

On the grand scale of things, getting society to better foster toleration in religion will be a major test for the human race.  In order to exist harmoniously with one another, we must understand each other. Understanding makes up the core of toleration; once you understand something, it is easy to accept it. To cultivate this understanding, society must encourage the minority religions to speak out, to educate the masses without fear of being ostracized. In addition, the people of minority religions must understand the basis of Christianity and Catholicism.

In short, education is what the world needs to promote toleration of all religions. Tolerance does not entail belief; it does not intend to convert. It is simply a measure of acceptance. We are all we've got. If religion is what separates one man from another, then mankind is in a precarious position.


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