Category Archives: Social cohesion

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

International Human Solidarity Day

International Human Solidarity DayInternational Human Solidarity Day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005 as an initiative in the fight against poverty. It is:

  • A day to celebrate our unity in diversity
  • A day to remind governments to respect their commitments to international agreements
  • A day to raise public awareness of the importance of solidarity
  • A day to encourage debate on the ways to promote solidarity for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals including poverty eradication
  • A day of action to encourage new initiatives for poverty eradication

Today is the International Day for Tolerance

The United NationsFollowing the United Nations Year for Tolerance in 1995, the International Day for Tolerance was first observed on 16 November 1996.

Activities on the Day seek to promote recognition of the need for tolerance and understanding of the practise of tolerance. Building tolerance and trust in diverse communities is not done overnight, but takes time and commitment. Building tolerance requires access to education. Intolerance is often rooted in ignorance and fear: fear of the unknown, of the “other”, other cultures, religions and nations. Intolerance is also closely linked to an exaggerated sense of self-worth and pride: notions taught and learned at an early age. Therefore in coming years, we need to place greater emphasis on educating children about tolerance, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

But we should not forget that education does not end in school, that adults – firstly as individuals capable of committing acts of intolerance but more importantly in their capacity as parents, law-makers and law-enforcement officials – also need to be considered a priority target of our educational efforts.

An International Day for Tolerance can serve as an annual occasion for tolerance education as well as for wider social and political reflection and debate on local and global problems of intolerance. It is a moment to take stock of the progress made during the year and to propose fresh policies to close remaining gaps.

While the problem of intolerance is global, in the sense that it is on the increase in many parts of the world, the manifestations of intolerance usually take on local or national forms. Thus, in order to be effective, global norms against intolerance need to be combined with local, national and not least individual measures.

For more information visit the International Day for Tolerance website.

International Day against Fascism and Anti-semitism

KristallnachtToday is the International Day against Fascism and Anti-semitism, an annual commemoration of the ‘Kristallnacht’ pogrom – a joint campaign of anti-fascist, anti-racist, human rights and Jewish organisations.

After World War II the Europeans decided that they would never let anything like the Holocaust happen again. Anti-fascist, anti-racist, human rights, Roma and Jewish organisations both inside and outside the UNITED network commemorate the Kristallnacht, which took place on 9 November 1938.

This partly state-organised pogrom against German Jews symbolises the beginning of the Holocaust. The commemoration has taken on a new meaning as we remember not only the victims from 1938, but also campaign against the rise of neo-nazism and racism in Europe today, and show support for the recent victims of racist and fascist attacks.

Government blocks secular school that would teach all world views

Anushka Asthana reports in the Observer that senior government officials have blocked attempts to create the first school without an act of collective worship branding it a ‘political impossibility’.

Dr Paul Kelly“Dr Paul Kelley, head of Monkseaton High School in Tyneside – the first to join the government’s flagship ‘trust school‘ scheme – wanted to challenge the legal requirement in all state schools for pupils to take part in a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian nature. There are only a handful of exceptions at faith schools where the daily worship can be based on a different religion.

He also wanted to change the way that religious education was taught, introducing tuition about a number of world views, some that involved faith and some that did not. He intended to follow a ‘third way’ that neither banished religion from the classroom completely nor had children attending daily worship.

According to the Observer “One senior figure at the then Department for Education and Skills, told Kelley that bishops in the House of Lords and ministers would block the plans.” Continue reading

Faith groups agree ‘tolerance pact’ in return for state school funding

James Meikle reports in the Guardian that in advance of the creation of morefaith schools (they already make up a third of state schools in England) “Faith groups will today signal a new compact with the government over the promotion of social cohesion in schools, in return for state education funds”

“The children’s secretary, Ed Balls, is expected to say that ministers and faith groups have a common goal in promoting a more cohesive society, including building understanding and tolerance of other faiths [and beliefs I wonder?]. Ministers believe faith-based schools can play a lead role in twinning arrangements between schools in mixed and more monofaith areas.”

I wonder if it would fair to infer from this that faith schools didn’t previously have a commitment to social cohesion?

Meanwhile the Association of Teachers and Lecturers asked why schools “in which the majority of funding comes from the state, should, as the government proposes, nurture children in a particular faith”.

Exclusive: Bad poll reveals little

Moral decline?A poll of 1,000 adults for the BBC finds that four our of five people say UK is in ‘moral decline’ and only 9% disagreed that moral standards were falling.

62% said religion was important in guiding the nation’s morals, while 29% disagreed that faith had a role to play.

People aged 16 to 24 were more likely than those in older age groups to agree that religion had a key role to play in guiding the nation’s morals.

Another stupid, badly conceived poll for a TV programme (at least for a change it’s not trying to ask how loyal Muslims are or similar).

Best view I’ve seen was in resposne to Simon Barrow’s commentary in Comment is Free from someone called Margin:

“Can you name five moral standards that have declined? five that you have evidence of both change and of decline? I can’t….[M]y argument is not that nothing changes, but that the verifiable changes are not conclusively decline or incline, while changes percieved as moral decline are often not verifiably changed. eg.I can conclude that the unwillingness to tackle homosexuality, with fewer prosecutions and many more openly gay people in society as evidence of change, is a form of moral decline. I can likewise conclude that tolerance towards homosexuality, with fewer prosecutions and many more openly gay people in society as evidence of change, is a form of moral incline.

What I can’t do is decide that some one spitting in the street is a form of moral incline or decline because I don’t know if he spat in the street before, or how many other people did. “

“as such I will ignore this poll that considers one instant in history (now) and compares to to all past instances without looking at them.”

And it’s not really controversial for most people to think religion plays a part of guiding our morals (we do have a religious heritage after all) – it’s not the same as saying religion is necessary for morality (although many people do think that as we all know).