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Prayers for Tolerance and Understanding

Intolerance and misunderstanding have plagued humanity since the dawn of civilization. Groups fail to see eye to eye, unable to grasp differing perspectives. Conflict brews, divisions grow. Yet the teachings of history and faith show us a better path – one of openness, empathy, and compassion.

Roots of Intolerance

What drives this intrinsic narrowness of vision? Often, the root lies in our group identity. We cluster in tribes of shared attributes – ethnicity, nationality, faith, ideology. Our group becomes our home, its beliefs our shelter. Anything that contradicts this home feels like a threat. We react with fear and distrust.

Layers of identity also separate us from those not like us. Race and gender. Sexual orientation. Social class. Each a border dividing us from them, insider from outsider. The more layers in place, the wider the gulf of understanding.

“The human heart in conflict with itself” – Faulkner.

We suffer from conflicting identities fighting for control. Our shared humanity competes with tribal loyalties. On the deepest level, we all desire safety, dignity, and purpose. But group identities pit us against each other in that pursuit. Fear wins the day.

The Antidote – Openness

How to transcend these divisions sown by identity? The answer lies in openness – opening both heart and mind. Openness to unfamiliar people, ideas, and experiences. Willingness to question assumptions, greet different viewpoints, understand new paradigms.

This takes humility – acknowledging our perceptions are incomplete and biased. It takes courage – leaving our comfort zone, risking connections across dividing lines. It takes compassion – recognizing all people’s suffering and longing.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that…” – Dr. King Jr.

The light of openness illuminates shared hopes beneath surface differences. It builds bonds across borders. With openness, labels like race and nationality lose importance compared to our universal personhood.

Teachings of Faith
Teachings of Faith

Teachings of Faith

The world’s faith traditions uphold openness as an antidote to prejudice. Almost every creed stresses tolerance as a virtue. Here are three core teachings:

Christianity – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This command transcends narrow group loyalty. It compels care and empathy for all human beings. Even those outside your group, faith, or nationality deserve love.

Islam – “Repel evil with good.” The Koran urges reacting to mistreatment with kindness and forgiveness, not retaliation. Meeting close-mindedness with openness is thus the Islamic path – for goodness can overcome hostility.

Buddhism – “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love.” Buddhism pleads for responding to anger with its opposite – love. Only warm-heartedness breaks cycles of resentment. Openness provides an escape.

These are radical exhortations upending human tendencies towards tribalism. Openness to enemies was alien in ancient times. But faiths called their followers to this higher road.

Living Openness

How do we manifest openness amid real-world injustice and conflict? Here are three dimensions for application:

Personal – Root out xenophobia and bias within yourself first. Notice knee-jerk reactions towards groups different from yours. Then counterfear with curiosity – pursue relationships and understanding across divides. Suspend certainty that you alone see the truth. Aspire to practice unconditional goodwill.

Local – Promote tolerance and diversity in your community. Support events, spaces, policies that proactively welcome and include minorities of all kinds – racial, religious, LGBTQ. Speak up against small slights and discrimination when witnessed. Demonstrate openness creates richer, healthier communities.

Global – Advocate open-minded foreign policies over parochial nationalism. Urge international cooperation emphasizing shared interests and universal rights/ needs. Spotlight suffering abroad deserving humanitarian response regardless of group identity. Labelling whole nations as enemies is closed-mindedness that perpetuates conflict. An open global society is possible if enough people dare envision it.

We all struggle against ingrained biases towards those not like us. Individual and group identities compete with openness. But faith and history’s voices remind us to keep rising higher. The moral arc of human destinies bends towards embrace. May we bend it faster through our prayers and practice.

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