January 25th marked the last day of the yearly celebrations of Christian Unity week and throughout the week Christians acknowledge and tolerate their diversity by fellowshipping in the evening services.

February 4th is another important day for the United Nations and all religions as the world join hands in celebrating the International Day of Human Fraternity. These celebrations date back to December 21st, 2020 when the United Nations through the resolution 75/200 declared this day as the day to promote unity and tolerance of different beliefs, races and cultures among people fraternity and religious and cultural tolerance in society.

The inaugural celebrations were on the February 21st, 2021. The architects of these celebrations were Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (Cairo), Sheikh Al- Tayyeb who joined hands in creating a special document called: ‘Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.’ The existence of this document was announced on February 4th, 2019 when Pope Francis visited the United Arab Emirates.

The following principles are significant for the successful observations of this day; practicing tolerance, spreading the love for humanity, accepting diversity, finding similarities, watching movies of acceptance, teaching tolerance, raising awareness, and sharing posts on social media. Why are these celebrations important for the United Nations and the entire religious fraternity? The current drive on Sustainable Development goals cannot be successful without peace among communities and nations.

This is the reason why Sustainable Development goal 16 talks of ‘Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.’ It has been established over the years that there cannot be sustainable peace without tolerance among people of different religions and cultures. These two (religion and culture) are important in defining people’s identities. It is these two areas where conflict arises due to lack of tolerance.

Recently, over 100 people died in Pakistan when a mosque was attacked by suicide bombers. Their motive is not yet known but it is likely that this is as result of religious extremism. Such extremism is as a result of intolerance and failure to embrace diversity.

Three churches were attacked in Algeciras, Cadiz, Spain and one life was lost while several people including the priest were injured. In Jerusalem a synagogue was also attacked and these are incidences of January 2023 and the question is; what will be the state of affairs by the end of the year.

In 2021 that is from January to September, there were 121 attacks on houses of worship in the USA. This demonstrates how serious is the subject of religious tolerance and these are the institutions that are supposed to be custodians of peace and love. The theme for this year’s celebrations is ‘This is the time in which the world needs more love and tolerance than ever before’ and is a befitting theme given some of the statics of religious violence mentioned above.

It is a befitting theme especially this time when the world is grappling with the war of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and Belarus. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 talks about love as the most important gift of the holy spirit. The word ‘love’ in English is confusing as it brings with it multiple meanings but in the Greek language different types of love have different words. There are seven words for love in Greek but three are the most popular ones-eros, philos, and agape. Eros is romantic or sexual love. Eros is not used in the New Testament.

Philos is brotherly love—friendship love—companionship love. Agape has to do with a concern for the well-being of the other person. It is as much a “doing” as a “feeling” word. It requires action. It requires us to demonstrate our love in some practical fashion. An agape person will do what is possible to feed the hungry—and to give drink to the thirsty—and to welcome the stranger—and to clothe the naked—and to visit the sick and the person in prison (Matthew 25:31-46).

Those are the kinds of actions we will pursue if we truly tolerate diversity and love others. God created us differently but we are all equal before him hence we need to respect, tolerate, love, and embrace each other to create a better and peaceful world.