Politicians should actively advocate, on all levels, for the principles necessary to create a harmonious world of tolerance and respect, in accordance with the UN Charter.
Elected officials must not wait until tensions turn into violence.
We need a broad, preventive politics of tolerance as a new instrument of a more effective domestic and foreign policy.
- Planning the promotion of domestic and international peace must be based on tolerance, respect and reconciliation, as important elements of the soft factors of true peace-making, from the very beginning. In the budgets of the ministers of domestic and foreign affairs, as well as developmental and cultural affairs, a considerable amount for the “Promotion of Tolerance and Respect” should be included and spent on projects at home and abroad. As mentioned, for an effective foreign and defense policy, we need a well-planned fresh double strategy World 3.0 of power and reconciliation.
For the first special budget “Promotion of Tolerance and Respect Abroad” an amount of at least one percent of the total expenditure for defense, foreign and development policy should be provided. This money will then be distributed to the departments of foreign and development policy for concrete projects regarding tolerance. Depending on the importance of the subject in the country, two to three percent of the total expenditure for internal security should be planned for tolerance projects at home. Without adequate financing, the vital theme of tolerance will not be able to get through in the slow-moving day-to-day politics and will continue to be marginalized, as was the case with environment protection initiatives until the 1970s.
- In countries with larger minority groups,a special minister of tolerance should be appointed to moderate the dialogue between the cultures and promote tolerance. This person could actively implement a great number of measures, and diverse responsibilities will be devolved to this person. She or he will sit at the cabinet table and will be a contact person of the government, the parliament and the representatives of the minorities. The Minister for Tolerance should have sufficient staff and resources for the many projects. The appointment of such a special minister attaches great importance to the subject in the political field. The establishment of a ministry can be compared to the establishment of representatives for disarmament affairs and ministers for environment protection in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, both political issues have achieved significant status in politics and public life.
The wealthy, but tiny Gulf state United Arab Emirates (UAE) does not only have the highest building in the world but a visionary leader as well. The esteemed leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, appointed a new cabinet including seven young women in February 2016. He also established three new ministries for tolerance, happiness, and future. Al Maktoum explained: “The newly appointed ministers will drive policy to create social good and satisfaction. We have now more ministers capable of dealing with change. We want a young and flexible government that will fulfill our youth’s aspirations and achieve our people’s ambitions. A new Minister of State for Tolerance will inculcate tolerance as a fundamental value in the UAE.”
The first Minister for Tolerance is Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi. We had the honor to meet her in Abu Dhabi on March 12, 2017, and to discuss how to work together with the Global Tolerance Initiative. “Tolerance is from people to people, to think about your values. It is in our DNA. Islam has been hijacked by political parties,” she said. “The UAE and its people are a melting pot of tolerance, cohesion, respect, and acceptance of others. Tolerance is one of our core values,” is written in the introduction of her first National Tolerance Program. The pillars of tolerance are “Islam, the constitution, Zayed’s legacy, international conventions, history, human nature and common values.”
- Every country should establish a “National Agenda for Tolerance”, which provides a framework for the diverse problems, measures and presents actions to be taken in the next four years. This agenda should share its findings internationally, so other countries can learn from the recorded information.
- Governments should submit an “Annual Report on Tolerance” to the national parliaments. This report should identify the problems and the progress in the coexistence of the different religions and ethnic minorities. Such an annual report has three advantages: First, the administration is forced to present its activities in a correlated form, which tests their effectiveness, transparency, and accountability. Second, once a year the issue is a subject of debate in parliament. Third, the media and the public are frankly informed about the problems and the progress, and they in turn report on these.
- In countries with significant tensions between ethnic groups or religions, international organizations such as the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) or the Council of Europe and other non-governmental organizations should present their assessment to the minister of tolerance, as an attachment to the annual report. This would make the maximum amount of transparency and credibility possible.
- On a “National Day of Tolerance,” citizens should have the possibility to visit other places of worship and cultural institutions. The mayors should organize local events and invite representatives of other religions and minorities to roundtable talks, as well as local tolerance dinners.
- The president and government representatives should recognize and appreciate the contribution of minorities for the country. In September 2011, for example, the German President Christian Wulff invited twenty foreigners to the Schloß Bellevue and personally handed them the certificates of German citizenship.
- Governments could negotiate cooperation agreements with the representatives of religious communities or minorities, to regulate the agenda in detail. For example, the Hanseatic city of Hamburg concluded such a treaty with the Islamic communities in 2012.
- In schools, reflections on a world ethos and the Codes of Tolerance should be integrated into every curriculum.
- At the local level minorities in bilingual regions should not be suppressed, but they should be accepted as an enrichment. Street signs could be put up in both languages. The Danish minority in the north of the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, for example, enjoys special protection. This is true also for the German minority in Polish Upper Silesia, for the Croatian minority in the Austrian federal state of Burgenland and the Slovenian minority in Carinthia. The bilingualism of regions with strong minorities and their cultures should be promoted, rather than imposing the language and culture of the majority on the minority. The promotion of ethnic minorities is in accordance with the guidelines of the UN Charter, the Council of Europe and international law.
- International conferences and UN events should keep conducting fresh ideas which promote tolerance and respect. In the politics of crises, these soft factors of peacemaking should be integrated from the very beginning.
- Nelson Mandela is an outstanding hero of tolerance in the twentieth century. “No one is born with hatred of another race or religion. People only learn it later. Then, they can also learn to love,” argued the first black president of multicultural South Africa (1994 –1999). The wounds of Apartheid were consolidated with a newly established “Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” The model was groundbreaking and has meanwhile been copied in more than twenty other countries with ethnic tensions. The “National Unity and Reconciliation Act” of 1995 aimed at the consolidation of the past and national reconciliation.
The evil was not forgotten but forgiven. White and colored extremists reported to the Commission under the leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and repented their deeds before the families of the victims. The sessions of the Commission, which were broadcast on TV, became an important catalyst for reconciliation between blacks and whites in South Africa. Nelson Mandela personally embodied the difficult reconciliation between whites and blacks, a champion of tolerance who rose out of the ashes of the Apartheid regime. A long-term prisoner on Robben Island, he was elected the first black president of the Rainbow Nation of South Africa. Until his death on December 5, 2013, he continued to preach national reconciliation and tolerance.
- The South Tyrol Agreement of 1971 between the Republics of Italy and Austria granted, for the first time, extensive cultural autonomy to the German-speaking majority of then, 60 percent, who lived in this mountainous region belonging to Italy. It is one of the best examples of the resolution of ethnic conflicts, such as experienced today in Donbas in Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, Western Sahara, or Tibet in the People’s Republic of China.
- The European OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) publishes an annual report on “hatred crimes” against ethnic groups and religions in Europe. It collects these incidents through an international “Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Information System.” (www.osce.org).
- Highly symbolic buildings, such as the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden, which was destroyed during the Second World War, or the famous, beautiful Bridge of Mostar in Bosnia, have been rebuilt as signs of reconciliation.
- In Lower Manhattan, New York, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is planning a “Cordoba House” for interreligious dialogue. This initiative is aimed to activate the silent majority of moderate Muslims in the US to become an audible chorus. The house should become a sign of coexistence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the world city; therefore it deserves steadfast support. Above all, this documents that peaceful Muslims live and worship the true Qur’an, and not the murderers of 9/11 (www.cordobainitiative.org).
- In 2008, the largest mosque in Germany opened in Duisburg. Its construction was supported by a large majority. The Prime Minister of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Jürgen Rüttgers, argued that more new mosques were needed, not in a backyard, but clearly visible. The dome of the mosque is 23 meters high and the building can accommodate 1,200 worshippers. Almost half of the construction costs of seven million euros were paid for by the federal state.
- In August 2008, after controversial debates, the Council of the city of Cologne agreed on having a new mosque built in the Cathedral City. Even though his own party, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), did not follow him, Mayor Fritz Schramma voted for the construction and later resigned from office. As a sign of fraternity, the Catholic St. Theodor community collected money for the construction of the Mus- lim house of worship.
- Every year, the German Federal Government honors “Ambassadors of Democracy and Tolerance” in the context of its “Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance – against Extremism and Violence” founded on May 23, 2000, as part of the Central Office for Political Education. The focus is on local initiatives and networks that reach young people. (www.buendnis-toleranz.de).
- Since April 2012, the capital city of the Republic of Austria, Vienna, has welcomed immigrants of different worldviews with a “Vienna Charter.” 8,500 citizens contributed their ideas in 651 working groups. 325 organizations participate in this action of the city of Vienna. “In order to get along well with each other, we need respect. Respect means to accept other people as they are – just as we want to be accepted and respected.” The Charter recommends a simple “Please” and “Thank you” with friendly personal interaction. The diversity of lifestyles are an enrichment, “But they can also demand too much – the best remedy is the right portion of curiosity and openness.”
- The Syro-Malankara Catholic Church of St. Mary in Doha, Qatar, is one of the very few new church buildings in the Arab world. The ruler of Bahrain is considering the construction of a Catholic Church for the many Philippine migrant workers in the country, although this is rejected by radical Islamists.
- The legendary Indian General Lieutenant Harbaksh Singh (1913–1999) was not only a brave and successful soldier, but also a man of honor. When India had to return Pakistani territory to the Muslim neighbor country after the war in 1965, he ordered that all previously damaged mosques be renovated. In a ceremony with prayers, they were handed over to the imams.
- A new political arbitration proceedings from Stuttgart (Germany) could also be employed to create peace in ethnic and religious conflicts. In 2011, supporters and opponents of the 4.5 billion euro new building of the railway station (Stuttgart 21) fiercely argued about the rationale of the construction. The former CDU General Secretary Heiner Geißler invited supporters and opponents to a dialogue lasting several days before TV cameras and the public. The German Railway, opponents and supporters exchanged their plans, cost calculations and arguments in several peaceful and objective discussions and thus took the tension out of the conflict. This resulted in an arbitration which propagated a compromise proposal. This was followed by a referendum in Baden-Württemberg, which resulted clearly in favor of the supporters of the new railway station, after discussions that lasted several months. This was an exemplary new way – from confrontation to information and finally to resolution.
- The city council of the Czech city Brno (Brünn in German) “felt deeply sorry” for the many innocent victims of the so-called Brno death march in his “Declaration of Atonement and Shared Future” on May 19, 2015. At the end of May 1945, more than 26,000 German-speaking citizens of Brno were chased 60 kilometers toward Austria. At least 2,000 people died. The spokesman of Sudeten Germans, the Euro-MP Bernd Posselt, talks about a “giant step that deserves thanks and appreciation.” For Bernd Fabritius, the chairman of the German Federation of Expellees and member of the Bundestag, this declaration is an “exemplary sign of policy of rapprochement”.
In the decree the city council of Brno declared,
“This year we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the ending of World War Two, the greatest tragedy in human history. During the years of 1939–1945 our country was occupied by the German Wehrmacht and Czech citizens were persecuted.
After the liberation of Brno, the national board of Great Brno, on the orders of the national board of the country from May 30, 1945, mandated in the afternoon that every German-speaking citizen of Brno had to gather at the Mendelplatz at 10 p.m. on the same day. During this very night, and also the next morning, they were lead out of the city by armed revolutionary guards and military units. The group of about 20,000 people experienced an endless march toward the Austrian border without food, water, medical care, basic hygiene and rest. According to eyewitnesses many died on the way to the border due to exhaustion, while others died due to epidemics that spread within the camp in Pöhrlitz. Others were simply battered to death or shot by the armed companions. The move was especially directed against women, children and old people, who formed the majority of the marching. Among the expellees were also many Czechs and German anti-fascists. This scheme went down in history as the so-called “Brünner Todesmarsch” (“Death march of Brno”).
We, as today’s political representatives of the city, condemn all crimes committed between 1939 and 1945 and want to commemorate all victims, on occasion of the 70th anniversary of those Brno-events. We wish to honor them to thereby contribute to the process of engagement with the injustice that hit a considerable number of the then-civilians of Brno. Our concern is the reconciliation and a shared future. So we address former and current citizens of Brno with the following messages.
The first message is addressed to those who have suffered from the brutally forced migration, it is a message of atonement. The second message is addressed to us, today’s citizens of Brno, who’s majority has got nothing to do and nothing in common with what happened 70 years ago. This is not about self-accusation, but about responsibility for our living together with people from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, now and in the future. This message gives hope, that nothing of that sort will ever happen again, as long as we keep in mind the unacceptability of the crimes that were committed and adopt an open attitude towards that. This is the message of a shared future.
The city of Brno regrets the events of May 30, 1945, and the following days deeply, when thousands of people were forced to leave the city because of the use of the principal of collective-guilt or their language affiliation. We also voice the desire that all previous injustice can be forgiven and that we, unburdened by the past and in collaboration, can face a future together.”