Each year, 16 November is celebrated as the UN International Day for Tolerance.
Last December, taking his oath of office, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Fear is driving the decisions of many people around the world. We must understand their anxieties and meet their needs, without losing sight of our universal values.”
Intolerant treatment of other people is not limited to religious belief or racial difference. It can also be found inside a society, between groups who hold different opinions on politics, education, lifestyle, or even issues like climate change or clothing choice.
Australia is well placed to serve as a beacon for tolerance, as people from all over the world make their home here. When Australia was elected to the UN Human Rights Council in October, the government said it would to push for the empowerment of women, indigenous rights and abolition of the death penalty.
World Vision Australia leader Tim Costello called on the government to set its own house in order as well. “If we are to play a credible role in promoting human rights internationally, we need to look to our own behaviour,” he said plainly.
How the government uses its seat on the Committee remains to be seen. In the meantime, and at all times, as citizens of a nation which most of us believe to be advanced and fairminded, we should make the effort to practice tolerance in our own lives, towards our own neighbours.