How the Women of Liberia Fought for Peace and Won

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Vision and Motivation

For Liberians, 2003 marked the fourteenth year of a relentless and bloody civil war. After coming to power in a coup in 1989, President Charles Taylor struggled to keep control over a country divided by rebel factions. Both the rebels and the Taylor’s dictatorial regime inflicted severe harassment and violence on the people of Liberia in the course of the inter-ethnic struggle; by 2002, over 200,000 people had died, and a third of the country’s population was displaced.[1] Although the consequences of war spared few Liberians, women bore the brunt of the suffering. While the armed combatants were almost entirely male, women and girls regularly faced sexual assault and rape. Others were abducted, abused as forced laborers, or forced to marry the rebels. Those women who escaped such a fate were left with the task of caring for children and the elderly in the face of horrific conditions.[2]

During the years of warfare, Liberian women “had to endure the pain of watching their young sons…be forcibly recruited into the army. A few days later these young men would come back into the same village, drugged up, and were made to execute their own family members. Women had to bear the pain of seeing their young daughters…be used as sex slaves at night and as fighters during the day…[w]omen had to sit by and watch their husbands, their fathers be taken away. In most instances these men were killed, and some of them were hacked to pieces."[3]

Unable to tolerate yet another year of fighting, in April 2003 a group of Liberian women launched a non-violent campaign for peace, uniting under the words of their leader Leymah Gbowee: “We would take the destiny of this tiny nation into our own hands.”[4] Gbowee declared, “In the past we were silent, but after being killed, raped, dehumanized, and infected with diseases…war has taught us that the future lies in saying NO to violence and YES to peace!”[5] In a society where ethnic and religious tension was rife, women from Muslim and Christian organizations, of both indigenous and elite Americo-Liberian classes, united to form Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace.

Goals and Objectives

After years of economic impoverishment, instability, and violence, there appeared to be no end in sight to the struggle for ethnic-political supremacy. Nor was there willingness on either side to negotiate a solution for peace in Liberia. Taylor proclaimed that he would never negotiate with rebels, and would fight until the last solider died rather than give up sovereignty to international peacekeepers.[6] As the country fell more deeply into a state of chaos and destruction, women grew increasingly and systematically marginalized. Though women felt most acutely the consequences of conflict, they were largely absent from any peacemaking efforts.[7]

The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), a regional peacebuilding association based in Ghana, realized the gravity of the situation and voiced growing concern over the status of women in Liberia, as well as the women of other war-torn nations in West Africa. In 2001, WANEP established the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET).[8] WIPNET was founded on the premise that “systematic violence against women such as rape, forced prostitution, mutilation, etc., was an expression of a deeper systemic disregard for women existing in West African societies….By using women’s numerical strength and their ability to mobilize around key issues, it would be possible to ensure that they could play a central role in formal peace processes and decision-making in the region.” [9] WIPNET operated in several West African countries, holding workshops in conflict resolution and mediation, empowering rural and marginalized women, and opposing community violence.[10] In the Liberian branch, the initial organization meeting was comprised of only four women. However, the WIPNET general network of women increased exponentially, with over five hundred women in regular attendance at its peak in mid-2003.[11]

WIPNET identified several fundamental problems with the peace and conflict resolution process in Liberia. First, there was a gap between the participation of men and women in the peacemaking process. Second, because they had little place in discussions, women’s needs were not being met in the recommendations for conflict resolution and reconstruction. Third, women who did participate in the peacekeeping process were not being taken seriously and thus were being underutilized. Fourth, in order for peace to occur, women needed to be educated on peace-building theories and skills. All of these problems would be addressed, WIPNET leaders asserted, if women created their own space to organize. WIPNET identified several fundamental problems with the peace and conflict resolution process in Liberia. First, there was a gap between the participation of men and women in the peacemaking process. Second, because they had little place in discussions, women’s needs were not being met in the recommendations for conflict resolution and reconstruction. Third, women who did participate in the peacekeeping process were not being taken seriously and thus were being underutilized. Fourth, in order for peace to occur, women needed to be educated on peace-building theories and skills. All of these problems would be addressed, WIPNET leaders asserted, if women created their own space to organize.[12]

WIPNET’s Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace campaign signified an effort to create a women-only movement for peace. The women’s campaign had three fundamental objectives: that the conflict come to an immediate, unconditional ceasefire, that peace talks take place between the government and rebel forces, and that international intervention forces be deployed to Liberia. [13] The movement did not take a political side; its goal was absolute peace. “We’d been pushed to the wall and had only two options: give up or join up to fight back.” Gbowee recalls, “Giving up wasn’t an option. Peace was the only way we could survive. We would fight to bring it.”[14]

Leadership

Although the structure of WIPNET discouraged a formal leader, its core members elected Leymah Gbowee, a social worker active in the Lutheran Church, to be the coordinator and spokesperson for the Mass Action for Peace. [15] The campaign formed as the Christian Women’s Peace Initiative, with Gbowee appealing to the women of church congregations to unite against both Taylor’s tyrannical regime and the violence of the rebels.[16] Soon, Gbowee’s network of women expanded to include Christians and Muslims alike. Despite years of learned prejudice, these women of different faiths and ethnicities were united by their shared experience as mothers, sisters, daughters, and aunts. The Mass Action for Peace was not simply a place for protest, but also a place of support for these women peacekeepers who had become isolated by years of war.

A gifted orator, Gbowee developed a narrative that expressed how the individual, particularly the woman, suffers daily the consequences of conflict and thus wants only to see its end. In a passionate address to Charles Taylor, Gbowee expressed the purposes of the movement: “We are tired of war, we are tired of running, we are tired of begging for bulgar wheat, we are tired of our children being raped. We are now taking this stand…because we believe as custodians of this society, tomorrow our children will ask us ‘Mama, what was your role during the crisis?’”[17] With this speech, Gbowee stood at the forefront of the movement and became the embodiment of Mass Action for Peace.

Civic Environment

The Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement formed during a period in Liberia’s history when civil liberties were extremely limited. In 2002, Taylor imposed a state of emergency to counter the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) that was quickly approaching the capital, Monrovia. However, most Liberians believed that the declaration of a state of emergency was simply another attempt to suppress opposition to Taylor’s regime.[18] Human rights advocates, journalists, and other civil society members found themselves under arrest and held as political prisoners; many were tortured and eventually killed by Taylor’s special security and “Anti-Terrorism Unit.”[19] While the independent media in Liberia survived among the corruption, war, and political suppression, they remained subject to harassment and often resorted to self-censorship to ensure their security.[20]

The environment in Liberia was not conducive to any form of protest. During the fourteen years of war, its infrastructure had deteriorated rapidly, and most Liberians lived without running water or electricity. An entire generation had grown up without ever seeing a television, let alone using the Internet.[21] This undoubtedly helped to isolate activists and to obstruct the spread of ideas. While the right to strike and organize remained permitted by law, Taylor cracked down on public gatherings and protests in fear that the message of the protestors would embarrass his administration further in the eyes of the international community.

However, the women of the Mass Action for Peace were not dissuaded by the intimidation, and found ways to continue their peaceful protest. Although the movement formed in response to the marginalization of women, WIPNET members actively embraced and organized around their identity as women. They continually referred to their status as sisters, mothers, and wives - all acceptable and valued female roles in Liberian society – in order to emphasize a peaceful and nonthreatening stereotype of women. “Policy makers are sympathetic to the word ‘woman,’ because they remember how well their mothers took care of them,” Gbowee noted.[22] This sentiment allowed WIPNET a level of access to both combatants and government officials that other groups may have been unable to attain.[23]

Message and Audience

By March 2003, LURD’s anti-Taylor coalition of warlords had gained control of approximately two-thirds of the countryside.[24] Although the dictatorial Taylor began to lose power, the violence persisted. The Mass Action for Peace needed their message to reach the combatants. With the prospect of a rapid ceasefire looking doubtful, they decided to expand their efforts by gaining the support of Liberian religious authorities. They took their message first to bishops and church clergy members with the means to exert significant pressure on Taylor’s government. They then enlisted the support of imams who held influence over the warlords, holding meetings after Friday prayer to engage the imams in dialogue.[25]

Despite the tenuous state of the Liberian media, the Catholic Church-owned radio station Radio Veritas publicized the women’s peaceful forms of protest. Soon WIPNET and its Mass Action for Peace gained the attention of the mainstream news both in and outside of Liberia. [26] This media coverage heightened the frequency and scope of the Mass Action for Peace’s activism. Rallying around a centrally located fish market, the women sang and prayed for hours on end. As a representation of their unity and shared commitment to peace, all in attendance wore only white and removed all jewelry and makeup, thereby concealing indications of class or religious difference.[27] They carried a banner that declared, “the women of Liberia want peace now,” and even held a “sex strike.” This form of protest, documented even in ancient Greece by playwright Aristophanes, was deployed by the women to pressure their husbands to become involved in promoting the peace talks.[28] Membership of the Mass Action for Peace soon increased to the thousands.

The movement refused to take sides in the conflict, and specifically avoided discussion of politics or government actions in order to focus solely on peace. Their activism aimed to persuade both sides to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. They actively sought an audience with President Taylor, even occupying a soccer field on the route that Taylor took to and from his office. When, in April 2003, Taylor granted them a hearing, over 2,000 women congregated outside the executive mansion and pled their case for peace. Both the women’s mass mobilization, and the fear of ostracism from the international community, convinced Taylor to promise to attend peace talks in Ghana.[29] After Taylor agreed to participate in talks, the Mass Action for Peace faced the task of persuading the rebels as well. They sent representatives to confront the rebel leaders in Sierra Leone. Women lined the streets around the rebels’ hotels until the rebels finally agreed to attend. “At first they were bitter, they were resisting us, they thought we were supporting Taylor, and then they said, ‘Why did youcome?’” WIPNET member Asatu Kenneth remembers. “I spoke in tears, and all the women were crying, and I think they saw it... and we said, no, we are not representing the government of Liberia, we are representing the women of Liberia, and we had a breakthrough.”[30]

The campaign’s attempt to appeal universally to women, not simply Christians, Muslims, or a particular ethnic or socioeconomic group, was revolutionary in Liberia. It allowed WIPNET to mobilize large numbers of women, even recruiting enough Liberian refugee women in Ghana to sustain pressure while the peace talks occurred. However, as talks continued, the International Criminal Court indicted Charles Taylor for crimes against humanity for his role in funding former Revolutionary United Front rebels in Sierra Leone. He fled back to Liberia, abandoning his delegation and the peace negotiations. However, the women of the Mass Action for Peace refused to lose hope for a peaceful resolution to Liberia’s conflict; they continued to hold vigils at the fish market, the presidential offices, and the Guinean and American embassies.[31]

By July, violence had worsened in Monrovia. Unwilling to tolerate another month of dead-end negotiations, 200 women held a sit-in at the peace talks in Ghana, demanding that the parties come to a conclusion. Authorities attempted to arrest them, but to no avail. When negotiators tried to exit, Gbowee and the women threatened to strip off their clothes, an act that would shame male delegates.[32] Physically barricading the delegates in the assembly room, the women only agreed to leave when the chief mediator met with them and promised to establish a peace agreement. “They started jumping through the windows,” Cecelia Danuweli recalled, “because they knew we were serious and the chief mediator came out, he pleaded with us and we said no, we were not listening to him until the ceasefire wassigned. And he got angry, he went in and blasted them. He told them, “if those women out there continue... because they are angry, they will come in here and they will do just what they please, so please, we have to do something, so that those women can leave the place."[33]

 Two weeks later, under the women’s demands and threats from the international community to deny Liberia much-needed funding, peace talks finally culminated in an agreement. Charles Taylor was exiled to Nigeria, UN peacekeeping forces entered Monrovia, and a transitional government with warlords in leadership positions formed that later led to democratic elections.[34] On November 23, 2005, Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the office of president.[35] After two and a half years, the women’s mass action campaign officially ended with the election of the African continent’s first woman president.

Outreach Activities

The strength of WIPNET lay in its ability to build coalitions between West African Christians and Muslims. Gbowee and core WIPNET members first founded the Christian Women’s Initiative from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Monrovia, but the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace was only successful when it included the members of the Liberian Muslim Women’s Organization, founded by Asatu Bah Kenneth.[36] Because of its appeal to a shared belief in the power of nonviolence and prayer, the Mass Action for Peace campaign quickly earned the support of religious organizations in Liberia and around the world, including the Church World Service, a faith-based humanitarian organization, and the Lutheran World Federation.[37] However, this interfaith collaboration did not exist without challenges; some Christian members originally worried that working alongside Muslim women would dilute their faith. However, Gbowee insisted that peacemaking must be without discrimination because the dangers of war were indiscriminate: “Does the bullet know Christian from Muslim?”[38]

In Liberia, WIPNET did not disappear from political life when fighting ended. The women of the Mass Action for Peace were key participants in reconstruction efforts. Their position within Liberian communities often made them more effective than their UN peacekeeper partners. Ex-combatants were more cooperative in disarmament campaigns when urged by WIPNET women, who were often familiar members of their community, to give up their weapons. The women’s work during the UN mission solidified their place in peacekeeping efforts, as well as their leadership within Liberian communities.[39] In addition to disarmament, WIPNET members also played a central role in increasing women’s participation in politics. They registered voters, particularly female voters, with great success; women constituted half of the country’s registered voters in the 2005 election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.[40]

Outside Liberia, lessons learned from the Mass Action for Peace protest spread throughout Africa. In Sierra Leone, WIPNET members led nonviolence activism training in preparation for the 2007 elections and organized the first ever West African Women’s Elections Observation Mission, inviting women from throughout West Africa to observe Liberia’s 2011 elections.[41] Women in other nations replicated the tactics of the Mass Action for Peace to address their own problems; in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Muslim and Christian women dressed in white peacefully protested to “end the political stalemate and worsening security situation” of their own country in 2011.[42] The success of the Mass Action for Peace emphasized a renewed awareness of the potential of African women in political life that transgressed boundaries. In 2011, the international impact of this movement was confirmed when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women activists: Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia.

WIPNET continues to peacebuild and to advocate against sexual and gender-based violence. Their goal is based in the concept of “never again”: never again should Liberians allow manipulation, prejudice, or abuse from their government. “We are determined to fashion ourselves and our children into a people capable of distinguishing the vultures and the opportunists,” Gbowee declared, “We are determined to fashion ourselves and our children into a people who demand and support good governance and are challenged to participate in it.”[43]

In organizing for peace, Gbowee and the women of WIPNET modeled the type of world they wanted to see: a world that heard and valued the voices of both women and men, both Christians and Muslims. In her Nobel lecture, Gbowee stressed that the work of the Mass Action for Peace symbolized only the first steps in creating a better Liberia and a better world: “We succeeded when no one thought we would, we were the conscience of the ones who had lost their consciences in the quest for power and political positions…as we celebrate our achievement, let us remind ourselves that victory is still afar. There is no time to rest until our world achieves wholeness and balance, where all men and women are considered equal and free.”[44]

 

Learn More

 

News & Analysis

BBC. “Liberia country profile.” 17 Nov. 2010. 

"A Conversation with Women Peacebuilders: Leymah Gbowee and Shobha Gautam." The Boston Consortium on Gender, Security, and Human Rights. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Medford, MA, 8 March 2006.

Dennis, Peter. "A Brief History of Liberia."The International Center for Transitional Justice, May 2006. PDF

Diaz, John. “Liberia: Women key to uneasy peace forged in 2003.” The San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Dec. 2010.

Diaz, John. “Post-Civil War Liberia at a Crossroads.” International Reporting Project, 12 Dec. 2010. 

“Ending Liberia’s Second Civil War: Religious Women as Peacemakers.” Georgetown University Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. 11 August 2011.

Gbowee, Leymah. "Nobel Lecture." Nobel Peace Prize. Oslo. 10 Dec. 2011. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB. Web. 

Gbowee, Leymah. “What Women Will Do for Peace in Liberia.” Schirch, Lisa and Manirika Sewak. Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, Jan. 2005. PDF. 

Gbowee, Leyman. “Women and Peacebuilding in Liberia: Excerpts from a talk by Leymah Gbowee at the ELCA's Global Mission Event in Milwaukee, WI.” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 30 July 2004. 

Herbert, Bob. “A Crazy Dream.” The New York Times, 30 Jan. 2009

"Liberia." Freedom in the World. Freedom House, 2003.

Nyamidie, Kwami. “A Powerful Voice for Peace: Interview with Leymah Gbowee of Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace.” Yes! Magazine, 10 June 2010. 

Pedersen, Jennifer. “In the Rain and in the Sun: Women in Peacebuilding in Liberia.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA's 49th Annual Convention, “Bridging Multiple Divides,” Hilton San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA, Mar 26, 2008. 

 Sengupta, Somini. “In the Mud, Liberia’s Gentlest Rebels Pray for Peace.” The New York Times, 1 July 2003.

“Women in Peacebuilding (WIPNET).” West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP). 

"Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 07 Sept. 2013. 

 

Books

African Women and Peace Support Group. Liberian Women Peacemakers: Fighting for the Right to Be Seen, Heard, and Counted. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2004.

Gbowee, Leymah, and Carol Mithers. Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War: a Memoir. New York: Beast, 2011 

Lederach, John Paul, and Angela Jill Lederach. When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys Through the Soundscape of Healing and Reconciliation. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 2010.

 

Videos

Gbowee, Leymah. "Peace Activist Leymah Gbowee." Interview by Tavis Smiley. Tavis Smiley. PBS. 5 Oct. 2011. Television

Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Dir. Gini Reticker. Fork Films, 2008.

Liberia: An Uncivil War. Dir. Jonathan Stack and James Brabazon. Docurama, 2004.

“Leymah Gbowee accepts 2009 JFK Profile in Courage Award.” JFK Library. 7 Aug. 2009. YouTube.

 

Footnotes
[1] Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Dir. Gini Reticker. Fork Films, 2008
[2] “Ending Liberia’s Second Civil War: Religious Women as Peacemakers.” Georgetown University Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. 11 August 2011. 
[3] Gbowee, Leyman. “Women and Peacebuilding in Liberia: Excerpts from a talk by Leymah Gbowee at the ELCA's Global Mission Event in Milwaukee, WI.” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 30 July 2004.
[4] Ibid
[5] Pray the Devil Back to Hell
[6] Gbowee, “Women and Peacebuilding in Liberia: Excerpts from a talk by Leymah Gbowee at the ELCA's Global Mission Event in Milwaukee, WI.” 
[7] “Ending Liberia’s Second Civil War: Religious Women as Peacemakers.” 
[8] “Women in Peacebuilding (WIPNET).” West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP). 
[9] Pedersen, Jennifer. “In the Rain and in the Sun: Women in Peacebuilding in Liberia.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA's 49th Annual Convention, “Bridging Multiple Divides,” Hilton San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA, Mar 26, 2008, 3.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Lederach, John Paul, and Angela Jill Lederach. When Blood and Bones Cry Out: Journeys through the Soundscape of Healing and Reconciliation. Oxford, NY: Oxford UP, 2010. Retrieved online at The Scavenger. 
[12] “A Conversation with Women Peacebuilders: Leymah Gbowee and Shobha Gautam.” The Boston Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Medford, MA, 8 March 2006. 
[13] Gbowee, “Women and Peacebuilding in Liberia: Excerpts from a talk by Leymah Gbowee at the ELCA's Global Mission Event in Milwaukee, WI.”
[14] Gbowee, Leymah. “The President Will See You Now.” PBS: Women, War, and Peace. 13 September 2011. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/women-war-and-peace/features/the-president-will-...
[15] Pedersen
[16] Pray the Devil Back to Hell. 
[17] Afkhami, Mahnaz, and Haleh Vaziri. “Ensuring Safety for Women and Girls: A Practitioner’s Manual.” Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP). 2012. http://tavaana.org/sites/default/files/Victories%20over%20Violence.pdf
[18] "Liberia." Freedom in the World. Freedom House, 2003. 
[19] Gbowee, Leymah. “The President Will See You Now.” 
[20] “Liberia”
[21] Gbowee, “Women and Peacebuilding in Liberia: Excerpts from a talk by Leymah Gbowee at the ELCA's Global Mission Event in Milwaukee, WI.” .
[22] “A Conversation with Women Peacebuilders: Leymah Gbowee and Shobha Gautam” 
[23] Pedersen.
[24] “A Short History of the Conflict in Liberia and the Involvement of NGOs in the Peace Process.” The World Movement for Democracy. http://www.wmd.org/resources/whats-being-done/ngo-participation-peace-ne...
[25] “Ending Liberia’s Second Civil War: Religious Women as Peacemakers.” 
[26] Pray the Devil Back to Hell
[27] Pedersen
[28] Afkhami and Vaziri
[29] Ibid
[30] Pedersen, 7
[31] Sengupta, Somini. “In the Mud, Liberia’s Gentlest Rebels Pray for Peace.” The New York Times, 1 July 2003. 
[32] Afkhami and Vaziri
[33] Pedersen, 8
[34] “Liberian Women Act to End Civil War, 2003.” Global Nonviolent Action Database. Swarthmore College. 22 October 2010. http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/liberian-women-act-end-civil-wa...
[35] “Biographical Brief of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.” The Executive Mansion. http://www.emansion.gov.lr/2content.php?sub=121&related=19&third=121&pg=sp.
[36] Pray the Devil Back to Hell
[37] "Peace Talks, Ceasefire, Humanitarian Aid Crucial for Liberia, CWS Says.” National Council of Churches. 16 April 2003. http://www.ncccusa.org/news/03news46.html
[38] Pray the Devil Back to Hell
[39] Pedersen
[40] “A Conversation with Women Peacebuilders: Leymah Gbowee and Shobha Gautam” 
[41] Gbowee, Leymah. "Peace Activist Leymah Gbowee." Interview by Tavis Smiley. Tavis Smiley. PBS. 5 October 2011. Television.
[42] Ekiyor, Thelma, and Leymah Gbowee. “In Solidarity with The Women of Cote d’Ivoire.” The Women’s International Perspective. 22 March 2011. http://thewip.net/contributors/2011/03/in_solidarity_with_the_women_o.html
[43] Gbowee, “Women and Peacebuilding in Liberia: Excerpts from a talk by Leymah Gbowee at the ELCA's Global Mission Event in Milwaukee, WI.”
[44] Gbowee, Leymah. "Nobel Lecture." Nobel Peace Prize. Oslo. 10 December 2011. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB.

 

 

 

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Although Hindi is India’s most widely spoken language, over 780 languages exist throughout the subcontinent. However, 220 have disappeared over the last 50 years, as their last speakers pass away and young children do not learn them. With English and Hindi often associated with education and development, incentives to preserve less-common languages are low, and their worlds and cultures are vanishing. In reaction to this trend, a movement to preserve the country's linguistic heritage has emerged throughout India, with activists using online talking dictionaries, YouTube videos and social media to save these languages from extinction.
Although branded as the transcript of a Jewish plot masterminding world domination, a large portion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is copied directly from a political satire by French writer Maurice Joly. Joly’s protagonist warns, “Like the God Vishnu, my press will have a hundred arms and these arms will give their hands to all the different shades of opinion throughout the country," and the Protocols attribute an almost identical statement to a “sinister” Jew. This plagiarism is just one of the many holes in the Protocols' so-called indictment of world Jewry.
Even as Hitler rose to power in Germany, Baghdad was a haven of religious and ethnic tolerance with Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and Sabeans living in a land where “the mosque stands beside the church and the synagogue.” Hebrew was one of Iraq’s six languages and about 120,000 Jews lived in the country. Today, after decades of intermittent war and repression, it is estimated that fewer than ten Jews remain, while more Yazidis and Christians flee every day.
Despite his sharp criticism of organized religion, Voltaire, one of the Enlightenment's greatest thinkers, resolutely defended religious tolerance. The most famous example of this defense was sparked by a tragedy. In October 1761, Marc-Antoine Calas, a young man from a Protestant family living in Catholic France, was found dead in his father’s shop in Toulouse, most likely by suicide. Public opinion quickly settled on his father, Jean, as the prime suspect – it was supposed that he had killed Marc-Antoine to prevent him from converting to Catholicism. Jean was repeatedly and inhumanely tortured and eventually executed. Outraged by the blatant injustice of the case, Voltaire succeeded in securing Jean a posthumous pardon, and went on to write his famous treatise on religious tolerance.
In the spring of 1994, Hutu militants murdered up to one million Rwandans, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group. However, the sharp ethnic distinction drawn between Tutsis and the majority Hutus is a recent phenomenon; originally, the term “Tutsi” denoted a person rich in cattle, while a "Hutu" was a grower of crops. It wasn’t until the advent of Belgian colonial rule that Rwandans were forced to carry identity cards denoting their ethnicity. That measure, along with the ban on Hutus seeking higher education and other discrimination sowed the seeds of genocide.
The heady days of the Arab Spring brought glimpses of what a more tolerant Middle East could look like. As pro-government soldiers threatened to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square in early 2011, Christians formed a ring around worshipping Muslim activists. Those Muslims later returned the favor by gathering protectively around praying Christians. Although religious tensions in Egypt have consistently run high in its modern history and Coptic Christians face persecution, those civic gestures in Tahrir Square showed that another Egypt is possible.
With more than 200 different ethnic groups, the landlocked East African nation of Chad is one of the world's most diverse. Although Arabic and French – legacies of Islamic conquest and European colonialism – are the two official languages, over a hundred languages are spoken within the country's borders. Islam, Christianity and various forms of animism and tribal ritual are widely practiced, and Christian holidays like Christmas, All Saints Day and Easter are public holidays alongside Islamic ones such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
In March 2012, Tel-Aviv based graphic designer Ronny Edry uploaded an unconventional Facebook photo. The picture showed a smiling Edry holding his young daughter, with the caption “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We love you.” The photo struck a chord on Israeli and Iranian social media, and thousands of citizens in both countries quickly followed Edry's example. One Iranian Facebook user posted a picture in response that proclaimed: “Dear Israeli Friends and World! Iranians love peace and we hate hate! And we don't need any Nuclear Power to show it!”
Afghanistan was once rich with pre-Islamic artifacts, but the Taliban and other marauding groups have destroyed many of these beautiful relics in the brutal struggles that have gripped the country. However, some concerned Afghans have acted to preserve the country's heritage. As the Soviet Army withdrew in 1988-89 and the country collapsed into bitter civil war, National Museum of Afghanistan curator Omara Khan Massoudi worked to save some artifacts from pillagers. Burying ancient Bactrian gold and ivory sculptures under the Presidential Palace and the streets of Kabul in 1989, he finally retrieved many the priceless artifacts unscathed 14 years later and presented them to then Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
In 1935, the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were branded a forgery by a Swiss court. “I hope that one day there will come a time,” the judge concluded, “when no one will any longer comprehend how in the year 1935 almost a dozen fully sensible and reasonable men could for fourteen days torment their brains before a court of Berne over the authenticity or lack of authenticity of these so-called Protocols…that for all the harm they have already caused and may yet cause, are nothing but ridiculous nonsense.” Sadly, the Protocols are still in circulation today, and are held up as "proof" for anti-Semitic theories.
Members of the Iranian Baha'i faith have been persecuted since the founding of the religion in the mid-1800s. This persecution severely intensified after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and continues to this day. At roughly 300,000 adherents, they are the largest non-Muslim religious group in Iran, but are not among the recognized religious minorities in the country's constitution, and cannot count on its protections. Today Baha’is are regularly subjected to intimidation, arbitrary arrest, destruction of property, denial of employment and access to higher education. The leadership of the Baha’i faith in Iran continues to be imprisoned.
Across the United States there are over five hundred distinct tribes of Native Americans speaking more than two hundred indigenous languages, and very few of them have a word for "religion." Despite having a myriad of spiritual beliefs and rituals, Native American tribes view the issue to be intermingled with every aspect of community and family life. “We don't have a religion”, some Native Americans insist, “we have a way of life.”
Appalled by the scourge of slavery across the United States, Harriet Beecher Stowe called attention to its horrors and impact on American society by publishing Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Selling 10,000 copies in its first week and becoming the second best-selling book of the century after the Bible, the graphic horrors of slavery portrayed in the book ignited social consciousness and fierce public debate. This debate carried through into the U.S. Civil War, which in turn led to Congress passing the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting slavery throughout the country. Uncle Tom's Cabin prepared the way for one of the biggest social shifts in American history.
The United States of America has a formal policy commitment to protect religious freedom globally. In 1998, Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act, establishing the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The Commission monitors the status of religious freedoms throughout the world and makes policy recommendations to the US government, including on the designation of serious repeat violators as "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPCs).
In the late 19th century, thousands of South Asian migrants flocked to East Africa to construct a railway network throughout the British Protectorate of Uganda. Over the following century, many of these laborers and their descendants secured lucrative positions in the growing domestic economy. However, the rise to power of President Idi Amin in 1971 brought trouble. Playing on the nationalistic feelings of native Ugandans, he denounced the entire South Asian community as “bloodsuckers” and decreed their immediate expulsion under threat of imprisonment. The United Kingdom attempted to intercede with Amin, but eventually accepted almost 27,000 refugees, decimating the Indian and Pakistani community in Uganda.
In an attempt to forcibly transform the Soviet Union into a socialist paradise, the Communist Party declared the elimination of religion to be an ideological imperative. Even though the Orthodox Church was deeply interwoven in pre-revolutionary Russian society, the state forbade public expressions of faith, demolished hundreds of places of worship, and executed hundreds of priests. However, the Orthodox faith remained rooted in Russia - as communism collapsed in the late 1980s and early 90s, millions rushed to be baptized and thousands were ordained as priests. Despite attempts to eliminate religion, today the majority of Russians identify themselves as Orthodox Christian.
Sierra Leone is a beacon of religious tolerance in West Africa. With a Christian president elected by a roughly 70% Muslim nation, both groups pray alongside each other with conversions and intermarriage commonplace. Some Sierra Leonian citizens even practice both religions; known as ChrisMus, they attend regular prayers at the mosque while faithfully attending church on Sundays.

 Each person must live their life as a model for others.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, October 10, 1960

 We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated.

- Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, April 2, 2013

 We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July, 6, 1944

 No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), spiritual leader of Tibet, September 21, 2012

 I was heartened that people everywhere want certain basic freedoms, even if they live in a totally different cultural environment.

- Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-present), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, 2012

 WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.

- Voltaire (1694-1778), French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, 1764

 The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

- William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

 While differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963

 It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.

- Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), French philosopher, 1686

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, January 6, 1946

 The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, John Brown, 1909

 Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live in somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me unless there is peace and joy finally for you too.

- Frederick Buechner (1926-present), American writer and theologian

 There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, 1900

 Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 We need a little more compassion, and if we cannot have it then no politician or even a magician can save the planet.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance — these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.

- Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century, Foreign Affairs, 1950

 Human nature is not simple and any classification that roughly divides men into good and bad, superior and inferior, slave and free, is and must be ludicrously untrue and universally dangerous as a permanent exhaustive classification.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Evolution of the Race Problem, 1909

 Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa

 Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1940

 I have no animosity towards anyone. Whoever displays human dignity, regardless of their religion or faith, I bow my head before them and hold them dear.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

- Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic, Almansor, 1821

 I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, I am Prepared to Die, Statement in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964

 I respect Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, etc., even non-believers who believe in the principles of humanity. I love them dearly and kiss the hands of each and every one of them.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), American lawyer, May 8, 1888

 I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.

- Maya Angelou (1928-2014), American poet and author

 [Most] can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty — conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher

 I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Age of Reason, 1794

 I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, September 3, 2013

 To build a future you have to know the past.

- Otto Frank (1889-1980), Holocaust survivor who was a German-born businessman and father of Anne and Margot Frank, 1967

 And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 I knew that to really minister to Rwanda's needs meant working toward reconciliation in the prisons, in the churches, and in the cities and villages throughout the country. It meant feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the young, but it also meant healing the wounded and forgiving the unforgivable.

- John Rucyahana (1945-present), former Rwandan Anglican bishop, The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones, 2007

 The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.

- Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), American theoretical physicist

 If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 16, 1966

 I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920

 Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944

 You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.

- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), English abolitionist, 1791

 Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, 1995

 I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Strength to Love, 1963

 The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

- Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish cellist, 1974

 All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness … the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, On Liberty, 1859

 How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.

- Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), economist and philosopher, 1944

 The time must come when, great and pressing as change and betterment may be, they do not involve killing and hurting people.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Dark Princess, 1928

 A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1950

 I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States,Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia, December 23, 1791

 To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, June 27, 1990

 We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1886

 It is my inmost conviction, Badshah Khan said, that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat – selfless service, faith, and love.

- Badshah Khan (1890-1988), Pashtun independence activist

 I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion.... My belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.

- Stephen Fry (1957-present), English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist, 1993

 We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups.

- Deborah Tannen (1945-present), linguist and author, You Just Don't Understand, 1990

 Where in this wide world can a person find nobility without pride, friendship without envy or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined. He serves without servility, he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent; there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

- Ronald Duncan (1914-1982)

 Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.

- John Cogley (1916-1976), author of Religion in a Secular Age, 1968

 My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, The Rights of Man, 1791

 The golden rule of conduct... is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilised society is, therefore, mutual toleration.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind.

- Ludwig Van Mises (1881-1973), leader of the Austrian School of economic thought, Liberalism, 1927

 I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, Anna Karenina, 1877

 Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews."

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated as May 22, 1944

 Many of our problems are created by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, resources, economic status or other factors. The time has come to think on a deeper, more human level and appreciate and respect our sameness as human beings.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July 15, 1944

 I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, "I Have a Dream", August 28, 1963

 I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.

- T. H. White (1906-1964), English author

 A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

- Desmund Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, September 7, 1986

 He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, July 1795

 Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not a luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - present), spiritual leader of Tibet

 Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

- John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher, Second Treatise of Government, 1689

 All of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.... this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God.... And that, simply, is blasphemy.

- Pope Francis (1936-present), May 22, 2013

 Even God doesn't propose to judge a man till his last days, why should you and I?

- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), American self-help author and lecturer

 We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, February 25, 1999

 You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, October 10, 2013

 We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 It is the enemy who can truly teach us to practice the virtues of compassion and tolerance.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), Ocean of Wisdom: Guidelines for Living, 1989

 It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist, June 17, 1898

 Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 At every level of society, familial, tribal, national and international, the key to a happier and more peaceful and successful world is the growth of compassion.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.

- Jonathan Sacks (1948 - present), rabbi, philosopher and scholar of Judaism, The Dignity of Difference, 2002

 If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1961), 35th President of the United States, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963

 Freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.

- Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948), American rabbi and best-selling author, Peace of Mind: Insights on Human Nature That Can Change Your Life, 1946

 [W]e are all guilty in some Measure of the same narrow way of Thinking... when we fancy the Customs, Dresses, and Manners of other Countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician, 1711

 How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, March 26, 1944

 For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa,Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.

- Desmond Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, April 26, 2005

 There's in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated May 3, 1944

 Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Loving Your Enemies, 1957

 I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.

- Eduardo Galeano (1940-present), Uruguyan journalist, writer, and novelist, 2004

 If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1885

 No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1786

 It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar... It is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one's] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

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About Tavaana

Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society is Iran’s pioneer e-learning institute. Tavaana – meaning ‘empowered’ and ‘capable’ in Persian – was launched on May 17, 2010 with a mission to support active citizenship and civic leadership in Iran through a multi-platform civic education and civil society capacity building program. Tavaana holds a vision for a free and open Iranian society, one in which each and every Iranian enjoys equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.

About The Tolerance Project

The Tolerance Project aims to inspire conscience, pluralism, religious freedom, and celebration of difference. Using an array of educational materials in Arabic, Persian, and English, The Tolerance Project emphasizes the capacity of each and every individual to counter hate, and imparts the benefits of living in tolerant, open societies. The Tolerance Project educates to prevent persecution and genocide, cultivating the basis for vibrant and stable societies in the broader Middle East.

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