Promoting Mutual Respect
The following is a guest blog by Steve Townsend, Deputy Head of Mission.
Pope Francis has signed the Holy See’s traditional message to the Muslims around the world who are celebrating the Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. The theme of his message is Promoting Mutual Respect through Education, and in it the Pope calls on people of all religions to build their relationships on the foundation of mutual respect.
Respect is a very significant concept. My trusty dictionary defines it as “a feeling of admiration for someone or something because of their good qualities or achievements”. Pope Francis has defined it slightly differently, as an “attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem”.
But in both cases, the word implies that you have to have a level of knowledge about the other person – how can you have admiration or esteem for people of whom you know nothing?
So a key part of respecting a person must therefore be getting to know them, what makes them tick, and why do they act in certain ways.
Education has a role, not only in teaching honestly and openly about different religions and cultures, but also in sharpening children’s natural curiosity. People should be encouraged to mingle freely, and to be able to go out to discover other points of view. It is this free exchange of ideas and knowledge that is the best confidence-building measure, to show that the person on the other side of the road/hill/wall/sea does not have two heads, but instead has similar wishes and fears.
Pope Francis’ message was to the Muslim communities of the world. Perhaps I could finish by quoting from another religion. The Buddha is quoted as saying: “You should respect each other and refrain from disputes; you should not, like oil and water, repel each other, but should, like milk and water, mingle together”.
The above is a guest blog by Steve Townsend, Deputy Head of Mission.