Understanding not tolerance

14th January 2005 at 00:00
I would ask Bethan Marshall how a law to demand "religious tolerance" can improve the situation (TES, December 3). Is there not a law to say we must not commit murder? Is there not a law to say we must not steal other people's property or assault others? Do these laws make any difference to those people who carry out these crimes? I think not. Therefore, I cannot see how by simply making a law that requests we respect other people's rights to their faith and beliefs that it will automatically happen.

Even if such a law was brought in and did succeed in making people respect others' beliefs and faiths this would not be good enough. You cannot force people to be tolerant of anything. To be tolerant you must first understand what you are tolerating! This is the role of education and specifically religious education.

We have a duty to educate our young people and to help them understand what it is that Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, as well as Christians, believe and why they believe these things. Therefore, I totally disagree with the statement that "our right to tolerance should come not from mutual knowledge of the Bible, Koran or Bhagavad-Gita but through the law enshrining our rights to both religious and individual freedom".

Our young people need to understand why their classmates need time off during Ramadan or why they cannot eat lunch with them at that time. They need to understand why children take time off school for festivals they have never heard of.

It is not enough to tell them that it is because they have the right. I have yet to meet a child who would be content with that answer. The only way to ensure we become a society that respects and questions all world faiths is through education and through teachers who are prepared to be enthusiastic and motivated when teaching religious education.

That way, our pupils will begin to see it less as tolerance and more as a part of our ever-growing multi-cultural, multi-faith society and will be able to participate fully in such a society.

Claire McQuade 37 Prenton Dell Road Prenton, Wirral

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