Opinion: Tolerance possible only with acceptance

By Fr Paul Melwyn, Pamedi, Capuchin

Nov 30: A nation-wide debate on the issue of intolerance in India is on. Aamir Khan's public comment about intolerance that creates fear of insecurity and his concern over social climate stirred a storm and sparked a controversy. No doubt, an alarming rise of incidents of intolerance with aggression and violence is deeply troubling. Three scholar-rationalists were assassinated in as many years. In 2013, Narendra Dabholkar, in 2015, Govind Pansare and Dr Kalburgi were killed. The death of Bismarque Dias on November 5, 2015, a social activist and a vocal environmental campaigner, in Goa, is now suspected as homicide. Sudheendra Kulakarni was smeared with black ink. The face of independent MLA Engineer Rashid was blackened using ink for defying the ban on beef. Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali was forced to cancel his concert. In Dadri, mob killed a man over the rumours that he had eaten beef. And the common people including me join the chorus of intolerance and hatred circulating news, using abusive language and shouting obscenities at anybody and everybody.

Writers, scientists, historians, artists, filmmakers, historians, and intellectuals have voiced their concern at the instances of intolerance in the country. They, as a spontaneous protest are returning their awards. To counter this protest Anupam Kher led "March for India" rally, with a few Bollywood names, writers, singers to tell the world that "India is tolerant". Interacting with them Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "Indian culture goes beyond tolerance and talks of acceptance." But was not vocal enough to express his concern. However, one can recall President Pranab Mukherjee’s words referring to growing incidents of intolerance. He expressed his "apprehension whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent are on the wane" in India.

There are two issues here: Tolerance and acceptance. Indians take pride in extolling their virtue of tolerance. Worldwide, Indiais lauded for its tolerance, its capacity to assimilate, absorb and accommodate different cultures and religions. India "the glorious land of tolerance," said Swami Vivekananda. Taking a stand on Hinduism, he proclaimed that what it does not tolerate is intolerance. In Gandhi’s view, Hinduism is "the most tolerant of all religions" known to him. He was convinced that no harmony and peace was possible without tolerance of people of other religions, customs and traditions. For Gandhi to treat all religions as equal was to practice the virtue of tolerance (sahishnutha).

Indian culture goes beyond tolerance. Narendra Modi has just repeated what was said by the visionaries and great souls in the past. There is something more than tolerance that society needs, namely acceptance. Tolerance is a virtue that implies that while one may dislike or be uncomfortable with something different, or consider it as being inferior and defective one may be willing to live with it. For Swami Vivekananda, "Toleration means that I think you are wrong and I am allowing you to live". He was more for acceptance than tolerance of other religions. In his view mere tolerance implies the notion of the superiority of one religion over the others which are tolerant. It means, as he himself noted, that other faiths are less true or even wrong and yet they are allowed to exist. Therefore, he wished people to accept other religions on the basis of equality and not just on toleration.

Mahatma Gandhi too, had a similar view of tolerance which "may imply a gratuitous assumption of the inferiority of other faiths to one’s own." He felt that it was not our efforts towards uniting two religions with two different world-views but our efforts in uniting hearts that required virtue of tolerance. It is true that no harmony and peace is possible without tolerance of other religions, but paying equal respect to all religions far more worthy than being just tolerant. Acceptance goes beyond tolerance. It implies assent to the reality of difference and approves it. While in religious tolerance one puts up with other religions, in acceptance one is in favour of and approves of other religions.

The Global Foundation for Civilization Harmony (GFCH) was launched on 23 January, 2008, in New Delhi. One of the objectives of the Foundation is not just to tolerate people of other religions but to have recourse to the Gandhian view of equal respect for all religions. This objective is stated "to bring about a paradigm shift in thinking from the now prevailing notion of tolerance to that of acceptance of all faiths in achieving peace and harmony based on an ideal mutual accommodation."

The virtue of tolerance is not an idea but an acquired human behaviour. It can be formal or real. Formal tolerance accepts the differences butwith prejudices. It is negative and the prejudices of other religions result in "arrogance and ostracism". Real tolerance, on the other hand, acknowledges difference with respect, puts aside prejudices, indifference and attempts to learn from the other, which leads all to the virtue of "solidarity" which implies that we are all in "one boat".

One religion (dharma), one race (jati), one culture (sanskriti) are not the needs of India. The need of the moment is the cultivation of virtues like tolerance, mutual respect, an acceptance of and trust in adherents of other religions, which will help to promote peace and harmony, thereby making India a peace-loving fraternity. Fraternity (bandhutva) is one of the four objectives mentioned in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. Fraternity assures the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of India as one country or nation. The celebration of the Constitution Day in India, every year on November 26 lead us to ponder over issues of intolerance and enlighten us to celebrate peace and harmony, possible only through mutual acceptance.May the noble philosophy of Sanathana Dharma, expressed in the peace-chant (shanti-mantra) found in the Taittiriya Upanishads become the chant of every India citizen:

Om, may God protect us,
May God nourish us,
May we work for the good of humanity,
May our learning be brilliant and purposeful,
May we never turn against one another (II.1.1)



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Comment on this article

  • Nigel Fernandes, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    Extremely well written and thought provoking article.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Joseph F. Gonsalves, Bannur, Puttur / Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    We cannot accept anything and everything merely for the sake of acceptance.

    The righteousness we can accept and the unrighteousness we have to throw out / discard.

    Criticisms are good and through criticisms a person can improve from his failures and mistakes or the criticisms may be wrong also.

    Tolerance is possible only when you have patience to listen without violence and not to reciprocate but to be silent then you win and become valiant.


    John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Denis Prakash Lobo, Mangalore/Campobasso

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    Fr. Melwyn, your article is enlightening. If all people live the views & appeals of the eminent persons of our country, we all can live in peace & harmony. Then the issue of intolerance doesn’t arise at all. One of the reasons for intolerance is because we don’t want to accept others as they are, as our equals & because of our ambition to dominate over them & rule over them. We can’t see them becoming prosperous or famous even if it is beneficial for the country.
    As regards the debate, what good is being achieved by debating on intolerance? It just polarises the people & sets the majority over minority. Debates create new controversies which give rise to further debates. Instead of debating, it would have been better to find out why people feel insecure & are alarmed over the growing incidents of such kind. Debates are a waste of time & also a means to cover up the day-to-day issues which actually affect all the people & not just some sections of people.
    Why to debate even on other issues? Instead of debating & wasting the precious time, it is better to try to solve the issues or problems as soon as they arise.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Fr J.B. Crasta, Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    Dear Fr Melwin, the article is really thought provoking and timely.

    DisAgree [6] Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

  • Sachidanand Shetty, Mundkur/Dubai

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    High Highness Shaikh Mohd, the ruler of Dubai once said that “we have unique type of democracy in our Country….. You can enjoy your freedom of everything as long as you don’t disturb others and don’t step on others compound” what a meaningful sentence it is!!!!! But, according to so called few intellectuals in India…. “Tolerance is nothing but you say whatever you want even hurting the feelings and believes of majority but should not be questioned or retaliated at any cost”. If you don’t believe or feel as blind beliefs, nobody will force you to believe but don’t ever try to teach me your principle which is not acceptable to me. According to me “Tolerance” means both should tolerate whatever they say to each other without any excuse

    DisAgree [1] Agree [14] Reply Report Abuse

  • ibrahim, Mangaluru

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    You are right..there should not be any compulsion in practicing anyone's faith. But very politely request you to understand each other's view points on their religion. May be few minutes of our time will be taken it is worth to know what the is later messengers conveyed the message
    From Adam peace be upon him to Mohammed peace be upon him there are more 124000 messengers came on the face of this earth to convey Creator's message to human. We need to know at-least latest ones

    DisAgree [12] Agree [2] Reply Report Abuse

  • Hilda vas., Basarikatte.

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    Good Article.

    DisAgree [7] Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • Lawrence, USA

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    Very well written article. It is not only the intolerance among the religions, but also the intolerance within the religions needs to be addressed. Hindus, Christians and Muslims have different sects within the religion.

    If India becomes 100% Hindu nation, Per Se, it is quite possible that intolerance within the Hindus may continue to exist. Shiite and Sunni tribes within the Islamic nation is an example.

    The magical word here is the acceptance of each and every human being as fellow human first with dignity, respect and compassion whether or not he/she fit within our society's norms or religious belief.

    We are all created equal not by our ability, but by our natural birth rights. Acceptance is the right path for tolerance.

    DisAgree [7] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Wilfred J. Lewis, Matpady-Brahmavar/ New York, USA

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    With due respect to Rev. Fr. Paul Melwin I would say that he has presented very complicated article, collected undefined and non relevant data to express his opinion of intolerance a current issue in India.

    Living away from home with foreigners when asked about India, I have always taken time to explain India's majority population's goodness and their peaceful co-existence with minorities from many centuries. In return, these foreigners have been pleasantly surprised. I have argued that if there is an hostile incident toward minorities, by and large there is a prior bad background to such incident...

    In my opinion, Indian political system is getting to be more like western countries. After Soviet collapse English language, capitalism, Pro-market and more independent ownerships of business, pro-west education has deeply and successfully taken over India from last two decades. The younger Indian generation is excited of this new developments. Therefore political polarization like that of western countries is a good possibility. As a result India will have a pro-Hindu conservative political party as alternate to Congress centrist political party. Unless minority Indian realize this, the tolerance and acceptance level will be low.

    Every year in the first two weeks of December American first lady have Christmas tree lightening ceremony US president with first family have a "Christmas In Washington" both are spectacular events, televised live. Also State governments celebrating Christmas related events to symbolize the sentiments of Christian majority. Similarly, I would like to see that Hindu celebrations of their festivals in New Delhi hosted by Hindus at government level to represent their religious sentiments. If this happens, secular constitution is not at all affected. In my opinion dis-counting majorities in every issues by minorities hurts the secular constitution...

    DisAgree [4] Agree [13] Reply Report Abuse

  • Joyce Menezes, Dubai/Mangalore

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    Beautifully written...Tolerance and Acceptance.....peace-chant (shanti-mantra) found in the Taittiriya Upanishads become the chant of every India citizen:...we can live in a world free of intolerance issues.

    DisAgree [8] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • lancy , Belguam

    Tue, Dec 01 2015

    good one.. we are very slow in understanding what is acceptance... until we succeed in understanding.... we have the same go.... incredible we are

    DisAgree [8] Agree [5] Reply Report Abuse

  • ibrahim, Mangaluru

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Just came across one whatsapp clip that shows VHP brainwashing the young girls against other religion at a very tender age and many things that they grow up with hatred towards minorities
    How anyone expect tolerance from this brainwashed kids? how you expect tolerance from brainwashed officials?
    If other countries where other religion is majority and start brainwashing kids how they will tolerate them...that they need to think and stop poisoning and pollution. We always respect and prioritize our country first wherever we go. We buy Indian made consumer goods though we live in Middle east.

    DisAgree [12] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Till everyone is convinced "There is only One God" Intolerance will continue ...

    DisAgree [10] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Amith shetty, Mangalore

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    But no terrorism at least....

    DisAgree [7] Agree [20] Reply Report Abuse

  • Bro. Victor Crasta, OFM Cap., Mangalore/Bidar

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Excellent. Lots of facts.......... even i agree that "acceptance" is the best word. But it needs courage and sacrifice. Congrats Fr.Melwyn

    DisAgree [9] Agree [26] Reply Report Abuse

  • SK, Mangalore

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    You think ONLY one or two incidents of crimes..Bulls#!t....
    Yes it is a known fact that the political memory of the public is very very weak and poor like yours.....If the criminals are punished, then there will be no discussion on Intolerance ....Instead of punishing the criminals, they are getting protected, shielded and encouraged....where is the Nalin, why is he not protesting against the murder of Harish....

    DisAgree [7] Agree [18] Reply Report Abuse

  • Soorya Prakash, Mangalore/UAE

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    With proper understanding sense of tolerance then only one can complete the Jigsaw puzzle otherwise..... Never! it will be a snake n ladder.

    DisAgree [3] Agree [13] Reply Report Abuse

  • Richard, Shirva/Sharjah

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    talking one side Fr Paul Melwyn!!..why don't you appreciate the tolerance of majorities on given so many circumstances(you all know ..still acts as intolerance!!) if you talk all these, countrymen may think to live like other countries in the world where intolerance blind folded..and to be frank our country is tolerance and safe unless minorities goes aggressive on majorities to accept their faith/rules...its ridiculous...accept the truth, respect the majorities and get respected

    DisAgree [13] Agree [14] Reply Report Abuse

  • Frexy, Surathkal

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Very well written.

    DisAgree [10] Agree [16] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ramesh S, mangalore

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    ..Good article..but we have to think whether this debate exaggerated or whether there is real concern..there is no reason to think we became Intolerant for one or two incidents of crimes..difference of opinion always there..and if some one tries to change the status quo there always be opposing view, it can not be called as Intolerance..the writers always do that, they know that very well and they have to brace for it..they have to accept the opposite view..there are few writers like RSHDI/TASLEEMA/BAGWAN/KALBURGI/ARUNDATI in a ocean of writers who face criticism because they challenge society/people and some always side with anti nationals..its natural that people react..forget about celebrities, they wont live common peoples day today life..they dont know what intolerance..all these celebrities who are crying are booed or bashed for their nonsense statements..some celebrities like RISHI/SRK/AAMIR/ANOUSHKA so on trolled badly for various tweet..they take it very personally and think whole INDIA became intolerant and join Intolerant debate wagon..they should know that they are not sending personal email, they are sending message to whole world openly..there are billions of people with different view...there are serious issues lingering in our Nation..parliament & leaders should focus on that instead of this seasonal Intolerance..

    DisAgree [29] Agree [13] Reply Report Abuse

  • rajesh, mangalore

    Wed, Dec 02 2015

    Rightly said sir one person from any cast do not talk about any other cast .Some of the writers write rubbish or Hindu gods and the all join together and laugh. They write & other talk in public because of the tolerance shown to them till date. Everyone say " dont turn against one another etc etc., But when Mr. Narendra Modi has won the election and the world respects him for his ideas only in India they want him out only because he is a BJP leader. Give him a chance

    DisAgree Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse


    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Well written... Hats off to you PAMEDI... I must quote my role model, Dr Abdul Kalam: "A muslim lits a traditional lamp of Hindus with a candle known to be holiest for christians".

    DisAgree [9] Agree [39] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rita D'Souza, Mangalore

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Nice article!!!

    DisAgree [13] Agree [21] Reply Report Abuse

  • Flavian, Mangaluru/Kuwait

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Please have tolerance until BJP completes the Term.

    DisAgree [17] Agree [33] Reply Report Abuse

  • readerwriter007, pune

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    they will not let. that's the problem. Ultimate intention is to stop Modi and the development of the country by him. Main agenda on these intolerance drive by Congress and Media.

    DisAgree [18] Agree [19] Reply Report Abuse

  • Roshan P. D'Mello, M'lore

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Tolerance Intolerance political drama created by BJP & MODIfied media to divert peoples attention from core problems of India like unemployment, inflation, hunger etc as those youths voted for Gujarat Model & VIKAS. Now people have realised there are no jobs, high inflation & Govt can not control. So, this is only the way to FOOL public by creating some issues out of nothing.

    DisAgree [28] Agree [28] Reply Report Abuse

  • readerwriter007, pune

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    you completely screwed the intension of the article man. he wrote so well and finally you started blame game like BJP / Modi started... you will never change.

    DisAgree [28] Agree [34] Reply Report Abuse

  • Francis, Dubai

    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    Mind your own language buddy!

    DisAgree [32] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse


    Mon, Nov 30 2015

    No doubt intolerances towards minority community in India gets snowballs when RSS and their support bodies are ruling in India.

    DisAgree [26] Agree [45] Reply Report Abuse

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