Today marks the United Nations observance of the International Day of Tolerance; the UN’s commitment to strengthening tolerance by fostering mutual understanding among cultures and peoples.
This imperative lies at the core of the United Nations Charter, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is more important than ever in this era of rising and violent extremism and widening conflicts that are characterised by a fundamental disregard for human life.
The United Nations has launched a new campaign to promote tolerance, respect and dignity across the world. TOGETHER is a global campaign that aims to reduce negative perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and migrants, and to strengthen the social contract between host countries and communities, and refugees and migrants.
When conceptualising both refugees and migrants, somewhat of an ambiguous undertone prevails. The lack of clear distinction between refugees and migrants in the social domain, is not met with a similarity of blurred lines in both the legal and political domains.
Many perceive that it is in fact this inconsistency, alongside concepts of ‘othering’ and entitlement that fuels this negative generalisation or stereotype of both refugees and migrants.
The convergence of terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ deserves real recognition and a conscious effort to correctly understand the forces that compel individuals to leave their homelands for a host nation. A greater understanding of such impetus reduces the possibility of our communities faltering in tolerance.
However, the way in which both these groups are received within their host nations should not be determined by either their country of origin or their reason for exodus.
As an international community, we are navigating through real uncertainty and one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. Be it conflict, the negative effects of climate change or the search for a better standard of living that compels tens of millions to seek refuge or livelihoods elsewhere, their admission and acceptance into host nations should be warm and welcoming.
Rather than perceiving refugees and migrants as a drain to our systems in this nation, they should be understood as what they truly are; an asset.
The pivotal role refugees and migrants have had in building our prosperous and innovative nation as a global power must not be understated or overlooked.
Tolerance is a concept we must ensure and uphold, but it is only the first step in establishing a cohesive and unified society. Furthermore, migrants and refugees should be celebrated, rather than simply tolerated.
As Muslims, the Prophetic and Quranic emphasis on tolerance, peace and unity are clear guidelines for our behaviour towards and understanding of refugees and migrants.
As humans, the concept of humanity itself acts as a precept to not simply accept, but to stand for the rights of refugees and migrants in the nation we call home.