A darker side is re-emerging and gaining ground. There is an increase in xenophobia, homophobia, discrimination, racism, religious intolerance and attacks on minorities - fuelled by far-right and populist agendas - and all too often by religious extremists.
Far-right parties are gaining ground in Europe at an increasingly alarming speed. The recent disgraceful video and cartoon insults on Prophet Muhammad, and the controversial adverts in New York subway stations with the intent to insult and incite hatred, in the name of "free speech", are examples of undue intolerance. Free speech should not be misused to deliberately insult. With freedom comes responsibility.
We are seeing intolerance across the board, creating fear of others different from 'us', arising out of an anxiety over financial and economic uncertainty in Europe and political uncertainty in the Middle East, reinforced by hate-filled, extremist rhetoric appealing to concerns for our own well-being and security - claiming that we should fear one another. Opinions that once would have been considered derogatory are slowly filtering into mainstream parties. It is negative rhetoric that speaks to people's fears and emotions, it is scaremongering that is irrational - yet it is effective because fear stops people from thinking rationally. This increase of intolerance is happening worldwide. It is intolerance easily provoked by economic hardship and it is very, very dangerous.
We know from history that there is no neutrality, no standing on the sidelines in situations of injustice and oppression. What we are seeing is a reflection of our inner beings, a mirror to our global soul that something is amiss. We are letting our fears divide us. Let's not allow prejudice, hatred and negative judgments to separate us from one another again. Let us not forget our history, and be mindful that victims can and do turn into perpetrators. The awful history of the holocaust in Europe, apartheid in South Africa and genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans - history that is repeating itself as we write. If we keep on neglecting past causes and trigger events we are doomed to repeat them all again and again. There is no security from the barrel of a gun, and ultimately, no happiness living in fortresses or in polluted environments.
Peace, prosperity and justice - we can have them all if we work together. There is no 'us' or 'them'. God is not a Christian but neither is S(he) an adherent of any other religion because no religion has monopoly on God. All major religions have love and compassion at their core, they promote tolerance not violence and hate, and most have their own version of the Golden Rule - treat others as you wish to be treated. They all recognise that human happiness ultimately comes from our relationship with each other.
In truth there are no outsiders, no enemies - unless we put them there in our minds. Black and white, rich and poor, man and woman, gay and straight, Jew and Arab, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Buddhist, Hutu and Tutsi, Pakistani and Indian, - all belong. When we start to live as brothers and sisters and to recognise our interdependence, we become fully human.
Our diversity is beautiful - it would be so terribly boring if we were all the same! Conformity is stoked by fear of not being loved, and an expression of a need to belong. Let's love each other - warts and all. Let's dare to be beautiful in our own truth - and still belong. Unselfish self-assurance, compassion, an inner knowing that our humanity is caught up in one another's, that we are inexorably diminished when others are humiliated, oppressed or treated as if they were of less worth than us - these are some of the inner qualities that will save us as a human race.
Let's not forget how to share in times of hardship. Let's not buy into derogatory, hate-filled or extremist populist rhetoric - we are wiser than that now.
Our capacity to relate to others and to recognise our interdependence is more urgently needed than ever when it comes to peace, prosperity and saving our beautiful environment. It has become fundamental to our survival as a species on earth. We can truly only survive together. We have enough evidence of the devastating effect of not doing so; wars, violence, high security fencing, environmental degradation, global warming, malnutrition and child poverty even in the riches of nations.
Most human suffering is manmade, so let's see the opportunity in this and work together and create solutions that unite us; build bridges of understanding, oppose negative rhetoric, hatred and injustices, support human rights and equal opportunities, and soften the blow for those hardest hit by the financial and ensuing economic crisis.
Let's make our humanness our way of life. Like when we pass the homeless and take time to look them in the eye and talk. When we meet the mother suffering from AIDS and are not afraid to take her hand and wipe her tears. When we remember that no one is a refugee by choice. When we hear of awful offences and never forget that inside there is goodness in everyone and that we have not walked in their shoes. When we do not judge or label others too hurriedly - because as the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said "when you label me you, negate me". When we relate as human beings despite our differences, recognising that ultimately we all want the same thing - happiness.
Human happiness comes from positive, nurturing and loving relationships, from helping others ("helpers high") - and ultimately - from a sense of inner peace. This inner peace can only come about if we let go of our fears and anger. Fear of others different to us, fear of not being good enough. Fear separates - love unites, so let's freely give the gift of understanding, love and compassion. Is this mumbo jumbo from two softies writing in an idealistic world - no, because there is a very simple hard core fact - where there is love and compassion there is simply nothing to fear - and peace follows.
Whilst opposing injustices, let's also embrace those that speak hatred because it is almost always their fear speaking and fear is always best countered by love. In its simplest form humanness is unconditional love.
Please, let us not lose our humanness again.
See also Desmond Tutu's book God Is Not A Christian: And Other Provocations.
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