Last year, I remember perfectly reading in a newspaper that in the Parish of Martim Moniz several religions coexisted peacefully. As I thought about it a little more, I quickly realized that, in the light of my personal experience, I may never have encountered a similar phenomenon in the countries where I have lived and visited. The idea of peaceful coexistence of religions in Lisbon and, it can be said, in Portugal - which is basically nothing more than living together in the same territory of different opinions, beliefs and behaviours - is all the more commendable when we consider the idea of that our country is markedly Catholic or has a predominant religion. This idea is echoed in one of the motives of the United Nations, according to which "tolerance has never been a more vital virtue".
Despite the idea of tolerance referring us to the thinking of other cultures, ethnicities, and religions, it was exactly on the eve of World Tolerance Day that I realized that, since March of 2020, this word has been very much alive for me and which, I believe, has taken on an additional importance in the social context.
Tolerance, from the Latin Tolerantia, can be described as the degree of acceptance before an opposite element that implies understanding and respect.
In the current context, in which at least some doubts remain about the best way to appease and neutralize the pandemic, there are those who argue that they cannot be forced to wear a mask and see their freedom of movement restricted. It is an opinion that basically invokes the importance that freedom must have in human life and in societies. To the idea that freedom is indeed very important, we would have to add, however, that understanding and respect for the other cannot be forgotten, since my freedom only ends where the next begins.
Between what we know (and what we do not know), what we see on television (which at times looks more like a movie we watch in the audience) and the lack of social interaction at work and socially, I am afraid that the consequence is also a great lack of tolerance and understanding with ourselves.
After all, in my generation, as in others, we have always been used to being able to move and live without limitations. Who knew that inviting friends to the house or just socializing would be something that could be forbidden? To us, our country and so many others. I dare say that we feel eager to get rid of so much restriction.
It is in this circumstance that the call for inner calm takes on a new meaning, where understanding and respect for the environment must overlap. Gandhi said that "tolerance does not mean accepting what is tolerated", as if, in tolerating, we lose sight of our identity or difference. He added: “The golden law of behaviour is mutual tolerance, since we will never think the same way, since we will never see anything but a part of the truth and from different angles.
Returning to the beginning of this article. Whether we talk about different cultures or religions, beliefs, or opinions, without tolerance, in more or less exceptional contexts, we will have a world with less understanding and respect.