Nov 17, 2015

UNPO Commemorates International Day of Tolerance Following Beirut and Paris Terror Attacks

On the International Day of Tolerance, just four days after the Beirut double suicide-attacks and three days after the Paris terrorist attacks, UNPO reaffirms that only tolerance can guarantee respect for diversity in multicultural communities, and only appreciation for differences and mutual respect can foster peace. 


"On the International Day of Tolerance [16 November 2015], let us recognize the mounting threat posed by those who strive to divide, and let us pledge to forge a path defined by dialogue, social cohesion and mutual understanding."

 Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations


The two events, which sent shockwaves across the world demonstrated that tolerance, as both a moral principle and a legal and political requirement, guiding the everyday action of states, policy-makers and religious leaders, is continuously challenged by deep-rooted forms of ignorance, discrimination, verbal and physical violence on the basis of one’s religion, language, culture, ethnicity or way of life. 

UNPO is an international, nonviolent, and democratic membership organization founded in 1991 at the Peace Palace in The Hague as an international forum aimed at strengthening the respect for dialogue. UNPO’s founding Members envisioned an organization, which would strive for a more equitable society, one in which nations, peoples and minorities, without states or governments of their own, could have a say in their own political destiny and find nonviolent solutions to conflicts which affect them. Since then, UNPO has been consistently fighting against any form of intolerance, exclusion, harassment, violence, extremism, and terror. 

In the aftermath of the brutal and tragic attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad, which have left hundreds dead, heinous calls for retaliation against Muslims and even refugees fleeing civil wars, religious persecution and terrorism mounted. Considering that political commentators and analysts warn that Europe’s open border system and multicultural society is increasingly under threat, UNPO firmly believes that tolerance and understanding can help combat extremism. 

In President Obama’s words, speaking at a G20 press conference in Turkey on Monday November 16, “the people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism. They are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents. They are children. They are orphans and it is very important ... that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”

Many believe that the locations of the Paris attacks were targeted because of their reputation for diversity and tolerance, and claim that the goal of the Islamic State is to spread fear, divisions and tensions. To uproot terrorism, we must meaningfully engage with those members of society who feel abandoned and marginalized with compassion. To uproot terrorism, we must unite and work together, and not demonize our peace-loving Muslim neighbors, immigrants and refugees. To do the opposite would mean self-defeat. 


“Europe’s game must be to resist that and not repeat the mistakes we made after September 11 which played right into al-Qaeda's hands. We must hold our nerve and embrace our values of tolerance of faith and religions which we share in common and against the Islamic State.”

Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform 


In 2015, the dangers of intolerance were also suffered by the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Al-Shabaab attacks at Garissa University, Ankara peace rally suicide bombings, and countless of others who have lost their lives in Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, Chad and elsewhere.  

In solidarity and defiance, UNPO will continue to actively encourage mutual understanding and democratic cooperation between governments and stateless nations or minorities in our joint struggle against intolerance, detrimental stereotypes and fear-mongering propaganda.

We should also remember the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, who called for “harmony through dialogue” between oppressive states and their national minorities. To this end, UNPO condemns Chinese authorities’ despicable misuse of Paris attacks to rally support and legitimize its oppressive and coercive policies targeting the Turkic, Muslim community in China. 

In light of the recent attacks, UNPO rejects dogmatism and absolutism; all individuals are free to adhere to one's own convictions, to be different, free of fear, harassment and oppression, and have the right to live in peace without imposing one’s views on others. 

In a post-Paris, post-Beirut, post-Baghdad, post-Ankara world, tolerance, respect and even friendliness are our greatest weapon. We should respond with more tolerance, not less.

UNPO deeply shares President Obama’s view and strongly supports the United Nations’ vision for uprooting intolerance and calls on Members States of UNESCO to respect the values and principles enshrined in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and genuinely contribute and promote the United Nations’ five requirements to fight intolerance.


Click here to read the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance Proclaimed and signed by the Member States of UNESCO on 16 November 1995.

Photo courtesy of Nation of Change