In an age where the electronic media has drawn us closer together into what is called a global village, or a global society, its benefits will only be felt when mutual goodness prevails, when mutual respect and understanding prevail.

If, instead of good feelings, hatred emerges, if restlessness usurps heartfelt peace, then we must accept that this is not progress, but is something that will take us towards unexpected results.

In this globalisation, where people of different backgrounds, cultures and religions are living together, and where the world has become multicultural and full of diversity, establishing tolerance and harmony has become very crucial and important, and fostering mutual love and affection has become vital.

Without tolerance and harmony the lasting peace of societies cannot be maintained, and loyalty for each other cannot be established.

Loyalty is borne from feelings of love and affection. At a personal level the feelings of love strengthens the feelings of loyalty. When a citizen loves his country, he exhibits loyalty and devotion and makes sacrifices for the sake of the nation.

If sentiments of love do not exist, then the spirit of sacrifice cannot be formed. Unless a person loves another he can never have good feelings in his heart towards him, and he cannot faithfully fulfil the rights due to that person.

Lack of tolerance leads to fighting, violence, and finally it destroys the peace and security of society. When people fail in their arguments they become intolerant, and then they use force and aggression to support their point of view.

We have seen considerable incidents in recent history where, because of lack of tolerance, people have attacked people of other faiths, their places of worship, their communities. How nice it would be if everyone tries to express himself in a decent and respectful way with tolerance.

The world is full of diversity, and that is the beauty of our universe. If there had not been any diversity, the world would appear boring and unattractive, and without any competition.

The worldwide celebration of the International Day for Tolerance was an annual observance declared by Unesco in 1995 to generate public awareness of the dangers of intolerance, and to help people understand the importance of tolerance.

The annual celebration of this day reminds us how important and crucial these values are. And it does not mean that we only observe tolerance on this day, but this day is just a reminder, so we carry on these values throughout the year.

The word tolerance means the willingness to accept or to tolerate, especially opinions or behaviour you may not agree with, or to behave sensibly with those who are not like you. It means showing respect for the race, gender, opinions, religion and ideologies of other people or groups, and to admire the good qualities and good work of others. And to express one’s point of view in a decent and respectful way while respecting the sentiments of others.

Tolerance can be shown in many ways, on different occasions and at different times. A person might fully disagree with others on any issue, from religion to politics, while at the same time honouring and respecting those with different ideas and opinions and treating them with full dignity and honour.

Tolerance is needed in all spheres of life, and on every level and on every stage, because it plays a vital role to establish peace and love, from the smallest unit up to the highest unit of society.

Tolerance does not mean that only one person or party shows tolerance and the others do not. When some people disagree on a certain issue they must advocate and express their opinion in a respectful manner, and hateful and provocative words should not be used. Tolerance must be shown from both sides on issues, in order for it to be effective.

Here, let it be clear that showing respect and tolerance to the opinions of others does not necessarily mean you have to compromise your principles or embrace or accept others’ ideas. It is simply a matter of fundamental human rights.

The right of every human being that his sensibilities and sentiments shall not be violated and offended must be recognised. And every human person has the right to have an opinion and to express it.

Mr Atif is president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta.

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