The International Day of Tolerance
Tolerance is the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs and opinions of others. This includes living side by side in peace and harmony regardless to whether you believe in another person’s race, religion, or cultural heritage. In 1995, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated a specific day to be set aside each year to increase public understanding of the deep rooted dynamics of intolerance and to promote worldwide protection of basic human rights. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed November 16th as the annual International Day of Tolerance beginning in 1996. The purpose was to bring awareness to the dangers that are inherent with intolerance and to encourage governments to participate in the advancement of tolerance and cooperation among all peoples, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or cultural backgrounds. Governments were, and still are, encouraged to help create worldwide understanding through leadership, education, freedom, and seeking progress in all aspects of human dignity. There has to be a concerted effort on the parts of those who are the Heads of States and the governments they represent to seek solutions to any acts of intolerance within their borders. To celebrate International Day of Tolerance, try out some of these recommendations from the United Nations!
- Explore the diversity of your community– Is there a cultural festival happening this week in your hometown? Can you attend a different religious service or share a meal with a neighbor that comes from a different background? Take today to explore the richness of diversity at home!
- Investigate human rights– How knowledgeable are you in the field of human rights? Do some research online or check out this introduction to learn more about the fundamental freedoms all humans should be able to practice.
- Tell us how you practice tolerance– Browse through your favorite books, newspapers, or television shows to see what messages are being portrayed. What are your own assumptions about tolerance and diversity?
- Reject violence– What would a conflict-free world be like? Do you think it’s possible for mankind to avoid violence? How can you be a part of this mission?
- Recognize all forms of tolerance– Take today to be extra observant of tolerance and conflict in all its forms. Do you notice it at a sports event or in your place of worship? Do you read about it in the newspaper? Do you discuss current events with your friends or family? Spark discussion!
“Tolerance is the foundation for mutual respect among people and communities, and is vital for building a single global society around shared values. It is a virtue and a quality, but above all, tolerance is an act – the act of reaching out to others and seeing differences not as barriers, but as invitations for dialogue and understanding. Our practice of tolerance must mean more than peaceful coexistence, crucial as that is. It must be an active understanding fostered through dialogue and positive engagement with others.”
Set the Scene: Don’t Laugh at Me
- Introduce the idea that you will now explore issues of how to treat one
another with caring and compassion. Have everyone share with someone standing next to them “Something that makes me happy is . . .” Give a few minutes for pairs to talk; then ask them to share “Something that makes me sad is. . .” Again give pairs a few minutes to share.
Tell a Story: “The Torn Heart” (10 minutes)
- Ask for volunteers to explain what a put-down is and share a few examples. (Put-downs are ways that we make someone feel bad about themselves—either with words—name calling and teasing—or with actions like excluding.)Tape the large paper heart to your chest and ask children to respond to the following story, “The Torn Heart.” Each time they hear a put-down they are to give you a “thumbs-down.” For each “thumbs-down” you will dramatically rip a piece off the heart on your chest and drop it to the ground.
The Torn Heart
One Tuesday morning, when the alarm clock rang, Pedro did not get out of his
bunk. Ten minutes later, his counselor opened the door to his cabin. “Come on,”
he said. “You’ll be late for breakfast again.”
“But Jimmy, I’m tired,” Pedro said.
“Don’t be such a baby” (RIP), Jimmy said impatiently. “You’re always late. Just
get up and get ready. Everyone else is already dressed. “Kyle and Roger, Pedro’s
cabin-mates, were just about to leave to head to the dining hall. “Wait up for
Pedro,” Jimmy called to them. “We’re hungry. Why do we have to wait for that
loser?” they said (RIP).
Kyle and Roger waited for Pedro, but once Jimmy was out of sight, they told
Pedro he’d have to walk a few steps behind them. “We don’t want anyone to
think we’re actually your friend, okay?” (RIP). Once inside, Pedro got his tray
and was walking over to his table when he tripped over his shoelaces he had
forgotten to tie in the rush. He regained his balance, but his milk went flying up
into the air and landed in a puddle on the floor. “Look, it’s like a circus act,” a
kid yelled out and everyone at his table started to laugh and point at Pedro (RIP).
“I wonder if he does tricks with balls like those trained seals?” someone else asked
Pedro liked to play sports, but he hated camp because he was the smallest of all
the boys. That day, because it had started to rain, they were supposed to play
basketball indoors, which was Pedro’s very worst sport of all. The counselor asked
the players to divide themselves into two teams, the Lions and the Tigers. Within a
few minutes, there were ten boys on each team, with only Pedro and another kid
The captain of the Lions team said, “We don’t want Pedro—he’s no good (RIP).”
“He’s no Tiger. He’s more like a scaredy-cat (RIP),” said the captain of the Tigers.
All the other boys laughed (RIP).
That night after dinner, Pedro volunteered to help some kitchen staff clean up. Two girls saw him sweeping and started teasing him. “Hey, Cinderella, when
you’re done can you come clean our cabins?” Now break campers into pairs and have them each trace and cut out two pairs of shoes on
chart paper and label them Child (1) and Child (2)—or alternatively campers can draw the
outlines of shoes in the dirt. The two pairs of shoes should face one another.
- One child will step into the role of Child (1) and another the role of Child (2). Give the
children their respective Role-Play Cards and have them silently read them. Have the
children step into the outlined feet. Explain how these feet have magic powers to make the
person standing in them understand the other child’s point of view about the conflict. Have
each camper take a turn being Child (1) and Child (2). Child (1) first explains her
perspective while Child (2) listens. Child (2) then explains his perspective. The children
then switch their positions.
- When it looks like all the pairs have shared both Child (1)’s and Child (2)’s perspectives,
ask: What’s something Child (1) would like to say to Child (2), now that you have a better
understanding of how Child (1) was feeling? (Some possible options include: “I’m sorry,” “I
didn’t realize how you felt,” “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” “I won’t call you Miss Piggy
anymore,” etc.) Briefly brainstorm with the campers the components of a good apology.
Give everyone a chance to apologize. Now ask: What’s something Child (2) would like to
say to Child (1)? (“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner it bothered me to be called that name,”
etc.) Brainstorm with the children some other ways that Child (2) could make amends to
Child (1 Bring the group back together: “Is it ever okay to tease someone?” Campers will usually say
they know whether someone is just good-naturedly joking or not. But, as this activity points
out, sometimes it’s difficult to know if your joking or well-intended kidding around is
received as funny or as a put-down. When something hurts another person, then it’s not
very funny. What could campers do to make sure that their jokes aren’t hurting someone?
Human Bingo Card
|Favorite holiday||Country you
would most like
|Sleeps with a
|Has a pet
|Has been in a
|City and state
|Sings in the
|Is bilingual or
|Has had poison
|Birth order||Insert camper