International Day of Tolerance

Viktoria Panayotova, Reporter

Do you know what November 16 is? It is the International Day of Tolerance. Why is it important?

“Tolerance is an act of humanity, which we must nurture and enact in own lives every day, to rejoice in the diversity that makes us strong and the values that bring us together,” according to Director-General Audrey Azoulay of The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The world is so beautiful because is so different in every part we look at — not only the nature, but people too. Every person is an individual and brings something in themselves that makes them differ from the others.

If every person was the same color or if every person looked the same or acted the same way, we would not be different.

Every person is different because we are individuals.

To be tolerant means to be respectful, to value other people’s opinions even if they are different from your own, to respect their differences.

“Education is the most effective means of preventing intolerance. The first step in tolerance education is to teach people what their shared rights and freedoms are, so that they may be respected, and to promote the will to protect those of others.”

Everyone in the world should have the right/opportunity to be educated if they want to be. Education is one of the things that is the same all around the world and should be valued the same way because people are equal when they face a problem for the first time, for example. Education is important because it is able to give everyone the same knowledge and experience.

I am proud that my country, Bulgaria, in the past has shown great tolerance, especially in its difficult periods of history.

In Bulgaria, we welcome all kinds of people from Armenians, Jews to Muslims.

When people were coming to my country looking for safety, we accepted them; we gave them the same rights, education, and freedom of speech.

For example, during World War II, Jews were persecuted. My country, although it was technically on Germany’s side, didn’t hesitate to help them against the injustice. Then, these people became part of our society.

The same goes for the people from Armenia who suffered a lot and needed help in the past. We gave them a hand, and now they are part of our society. For instance, in my town, there are many Armenian families that have a long history and enrich our culture with their differences.

Although there were many years of robbery/slavery under the Ottoman Empire of the Bulgarians, there are many Turkish people who now live in Bulgaria.  Bulgarians did not send these people away, but instead, we helped them become part of our society.

We can still see this today as they have a part in the political life of Bulgaria and also have the right to believe in their religion as everyone else (which was not allowed to Bulgarians during the slavery under the Ottoman Empire).

This acceptance and respect toward the different cultures in Bulgaria is one all countries should copy.

Nowadays, the world has changed. Because of the changes in our lives, all of us are facing one of society’s biggest challenges — the migration caused by wars or economic crisis.

People that are completely different come running away from somewhere, hoping they are going to find a safe place. They deserve the help and tolerance in the world as everyone else.

Migration is a constant process. Everyone deserves to be welcomed and accepted, even if they have different understandings from yours or different views of the world; this should not stop you from being tolerant, because everyone has the right to be heard in this world.

If there is someone different next to you, give them a hand, support them, do not leave them alone. One small gesture or action can mean a lot to them.

By valuing differences, trying to change your perspective for at least a day, imagining how things could be worse or just by being patient towards others, you can start practicing being more tolerant.

It is believed Francois-Marie Arouet known as Voltaire once said: “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”.

This is tolerance.