As a survivor of Auschwitz, I sadly lost my father and brother to the brutality of the Holocaust. As a child I unfortunately witnessed first-hand how quickly diverse cities can be hijacked by dangerous demagogues and unravel in the process. My experiences during the Holocaust have led me on a lifetime's mission to promote the benefits of diversity by travelling the world, bringing people from diverse backgrounds together and telling my story and that of my step-sister Anne Frank, explaining why civil society must do all it can to protect and celebrate our diversity. I truly believe one of the key cornerstones for sustainable diversity is tolerance.
Tolerance has positive connotations. We like to think that we act with tolerance and approve of others doing so. It is politically correct nowadays to be tolerant - democracy can function only with a marked degree of tolerance among the opposing parties. However, on second thoughts, the issue becomes less clear cut, because in many situations tolerance is less clearly a virtue and in fact even has some negative consequences.
Not only may the effect of tolerance vary from situation to situation, but there is also much evidence that our judgement as to where tolerance should be exercised has been changing. For example, nowadays we are inclined to be tolerant of abusive language in our political discourse. On the other hand, we tend to be less tolerant of our marriage partners - if things don't work out we give up right away. The same applies in the workplace. Gone are the days when we used to put up with difficulties in the hope of ultimately achieving a stable compromise. We prefer to give up rather than exercise patience. An important area where tolerance now needs to be greater is religion; we cannot afford a repeat of the great religious conflicts of the past. Where religion is still of great importance, such as in large parts of the Muslim world, religious tolerance is much more fragile.
Another big change in the modern world is the vastly increased mobility of people. Populations are increasingly mixed and the demands on people's tolerance of foreigners and their ways of behaving become greater and greater. How are we coping? It seems the jury is still out, but it can already be said that, though much tolerance has been in evidence already, many severe tests are still ahead and the outcome is far from certain.
The discussion of tolerance outlined in this book shows that its role is vastly important and highly complex. While its exercise is highly desirable in many situations, it is by no means always so. A large degree of circumspection is surely called for. Diversify lays out a practical framework for how we can best achieve this and helps us to take the first steps on the journey to tolerance.
HuffPost UK has teamed up with television presenter, broadcaster and author June Sarpong, ahead of the launch of her book Diversify: Six degrees of integration, to highlight and champion the economic, social and moral benefits of diversity.
Throughout this week we will be hosting personal stories and opinions from June, as well as the inspirational and influential people who helped inform the book and project. To find out more visit Diversify.org.Suggest a correction