“He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace” Proverbs 11:12
The splendid Peruvian writer, Mario Vargas Llosa, describes the brutalities of colonialism at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century in The Celtic Dream. The main character, Roger Casement, decides to set off to Africa to help with «progress» and the advancement of that land, convinced that the West is called to share its development with regions of the planet that are most behind the times. However, as years go by, he realizes the situation is very different. The brilliant author shows how a radical ideology can drive civilized beings to commit brutal acts against people with different customs.
Some time ago, I visited the Holocaust Museum in Dallas (USA). It’s a small but very meaningful place. It narrates how political dissidents, religious leaders, as well as people of Jewish culture or background, were taken to concentration camps—located in different parts of Europe—to be annihilated for being considered a danger to a supposed superior race, that is, the Aryans. It’s a hair-raising experience. The museum exhibits anything from personal objects that belonged to Holocaust victims to a wagon where prisoners were transported to extermination camps. How is it possible for a civilized being to justify such cruelty? At what time does the brain lose the sense of respect to give way to savagery? What point has to be reached for insensitivity to overtake human decisions? How can the mind be blinded to commit atrocities of this kind?
Any ideology that leads us to feel superior to others is out of place. That includes political and religious perspectives. But why is it so important to promote tolerance? Because as human beings we are inclined to repeat mistakes from the past. We prefer extremes—or obstinate impositions that crush other’s dignity with the pretext of «purifying» a community, or unnecessary daring attitudes that endanger our own identity—instead of seeking balance. Such circumstances make it easier for society to be polarized.
We can’t accept segregation of a social minority, even if we are diametrically opposed to its ideas. Their right to disagree guarantees our right to keep our religious or political points of view. It’s better to build a culture of respect and tolerance toward others, whose origin lies in the words of Jesus, who said, «Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets» (Matthew 7:12).