Your Opinion: Be committed to tolerance

Dear Editor:

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Either we live together as brothers, or we perish together as fools.” The man Rev. King considered his mentor; Mohandas K. Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi), was once about to leave India for a visit to Pakistan to meet the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Dr. Jinna with whom Gandhi had struggled for Indian-Pakistani independence.

A large crowd gathered to wish Gandhi a safe journey. However, there were Hindu fundamentalists in the crowd who objected to the Hindu, Gandhi, going to Pakistan to visit his Muslim college Prime Minister Jinna. Some in the crowd yelled, “Please don’t go!” Finally someone in the crowd screamed out: “Death to Jinna!” Gandhi responded, “Stop it! I am a Hindu; but I’m also a Muslim; I’m also a Christian; I’m also a Jew – stop it! For god sake stop it!”

That admonition is as pertinent today as it was in 1947. All across the world religious bigotry, or creedism, is blossoming. Have the courage to nip it in the bud when you here it. Most of you, I believe, would have the moral courage to say to someone who makes a racial slur, “Please don’t talk like that; I find it offensive.” But, if someone made a creedist slur, how many of us would say, “Please don’t talk like that; I find it offensive.”?

I would venture to say not many. It takes a commitment. And, as the late James Baldwin said to his nephew in that now famous Fire Next Time letter: “To be committed is to be in danger.”

No one wants to be in danger. But, unfortunately, we are all already in danger from the global threat of religious intolerance. All you have to do to see it is open up a newspaper.

Before he was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy said in a speech: “Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence.”

So be committed. Show moral courage; some people won’t like you because of it. (And; of course; we all want to be liked.) But once you’ve run that gauntlet of oppression; if you survive; you’ll find that you’ve become a better person for it. Be morally committed; teach tolerance.

Thursday, April 19, Capital Area Interfaith Alliance and Lincoln University will present a symposium on our First Amendment religious freedoms at Lincoln University. Please attend.

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