Mahatma Gandhi was the great apostle of non-violence. (Image: YouTube)
November 16 was the International Day for Tolerance. It is the day we remember the great apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi. It was he who said: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” In memory of his birthday, the United Nations declared this day as tolerance day.
This year this day comes amid the tears of nearly 1.2 million people who died of Covid-19. Many were left to die in their last moments in depressing loneliness and buried unwept and unsung. They went away without saying goodbye. Their dear ones are left behind with tears. This year’s tolerance day painfully reminds us to adore the unquenchable tears of the families of Covid victims. Avoid intolerance. We are all one in this.
Covid spared no one. It infected leaders of superpowers. It killed all races. The virus reminds us that united we stand, divided we fall. In many ways, the virus is the prophet of doom. Hatred, xenophobia, intolerance will wound the whole of humanity. Stand together, save humanity. Celebrate dignity in diversity.
Compassion for the suffering is the only vaccine against the global war against the merciless virus. We shall win only when we treat our brothers and sisters tears as our own. Adore them. Tears have no color, no religion, no race. We are all one in this challenge to our own existence.
Even the very simple act of wearing a mask is not only to protect us but to think of the other. The time of treating others as my enemies is gone; if I save my brother, whoever it is, whatever religion he belongs to, I save myself. There is no salvation without my brothers and sisters.
Covid has united us in our sorrow, in our brokenness. Every tear is my tear, every death diminishes me. I am my brother’s keeper. Jesus showed a great example, preaching tolerance, urging his followers to “pray for your enemies, for those who persecute you.” He had the great courage to forgive even from the cross those who tortured him. Lord Buddha urged all to feel one not only with living beings but even with trees and all living things. We are interdependent, connected at the core.
More than ever we are reminded of our human fragility, vulnerable mortality. Life is short; it is useless to spend it in mutual hatred. We are taught a great lesson in these days by the extraordinary poignant witness of the frontline health professionals; the sacred generosity of volunteers in quarantine centers. Service is their religion.
Across the world thousands of doctors and nurses have died, becoming martyrs for human fellowship, compassion and mercy. Karuna and Metta have become the two eyes of the human family. Let the moving sacrifice of these men and women inspire us to treat one another with great dignity.
Diversity is dignity. Unity in diversity. Myanmar is a colorful country of eight major tribes and 135 subtribes. We belong to various spiritual traditions, all teaching love and tolerance. It is a joyous display of colors, a mellifluous confluence of varied tones. We are a beautiful people because we are different, not some carbon copy of the nauseating uniformity. We are not lifeless robots. We are human beings; our unpredictability brings joy, our difference in skin color, our language, our race makes humanity a huge canvas of scintillating beauty.
We have seen the wounds of intolerance. In the 20th century alone, human beings killed nearly 135 million in intolerance. They fought two world wars, killed millions and brought misery on more millions. The wounds of intolerance have not healed. They are festering. This century has seen more cultural wars.
More than ever, our existence as human race is threatened. Climate change can kill millions, pandemic explosions can threaten human civilization. Without unity, an invisible virus can wipe us out. Fall in love, stay in love, save humanity.
Love is the supreme virtue. Love is the identity card of every human being. Christianity teaches people to love one another; that is the greatest law of life. Our enemies are our best teachers. Respect them. They have exposed our prejudices.
Myanmar stands at the crossroads of history. Yet another peaceful election is over. Democracy is a plant growing slowly. The heat of intolerance can scorch that tender plant. We all can be plunged into a dark recess of hatred. We have suffered for six long decades because we fought with our differences; the time has come to unite with our similarities. The dream of the Golden Land is possible if we can forgive and make all our wars and conflicts history.
Once again, I plead with all: Look at the tragedy and tears of the pandemic. It spared no one. It discriminated no one. All fell victims. The tears are the same, urging us to forget our differences. Never tolerate intolerance. We are one because our tears are the same.
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo is the archbishop of Yangon in Myanmar and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.