Tolerant people of the past: Mother Theresa

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26.8.1919-5.9.1997)...

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26.8.1919-5.9.1997); at a pro-life meeting in 1986 in Bonn, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mother Theresa

I can remember her well, the old wrinkly lady on tv. By the time I had the maturity to appreciate her work wholeheartedly she was no longer officially in office. But she had such a charisma and noble vibe around her that she was still quite often in the news, helping in one of her missions, trying to make the life of the poorest of the poor a little bit better. She did not do this for fame or money: it was her life’s mission.




She was the recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. She refused the conventional banquet given to laureates, and asked that the $192.000 funds be given to the poor in India. Mother Theresa stated that earthly rewards were important only if they helped her help the world’s needy. All over the world she worked hard to battle for people that needed support. Even though she was a devout Christian, her work transgressed over the boundaries of religious teachings. Teresa received Vatican permission on 7 October 1950 to start the diocesan congregation that would become the Missionaries of Charity. Its mission was to care for, in her own words, “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

Her actions aimed at the poorest of the poor, but she was not blind for the difficult problems that are common in western civilized societies. I will not state that there is no poverty in Western Society, however the problems are significantly different from the poorest people in for example India. Recognizing this difference in her Nobel price speech Mother Theresa stated:

“Around the world, not only in the poor countries, but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society—that poverty is so hurtable and so much, and I find that very difficult.”

The life of Mother Theresa shows devotion and action for people that need it most. Be more like her, and be kinder to people that are not as fortunate as you are.

How did the life of Mother Theresa influence you? What is it about her that you remember the most? And how do you see her life from the perspective of tolerance?

I’d love your feedback. Also if you have a suggestion to spot someone in the spotlight let me know!

Series: Tolerant people of the past:

Charlie Chaplin




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Tolerant people of the past: Charlie Chaplin

I am not the first nor the last to try and create a more tolerant attitude in our society. There have been great people in the past, each trying to make the world a better place in their way. I want to make this a series in which every week a different person is put in the spotlight. If you have a recommendation then please comment. It does not even have to be a famous person, if the story is moving I will post it.

This week: Charlie Chaplin (Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin) 1889-1997

There is a lot to say about Charlie Chaplin, but a biography can be easily found elsewhere (see link above). I will let his work speak for itself.

Although he is best known for his during the silent film era, the most fitting work for this blog is his masterpiece The Great Dictator (1940). The barber’s speech is a true work of art and a timeless speech. I shall let you judge it for yourself:


The Barber’s speech

Closing speech of the Jewish barber, after being mistaken for Hynkel. – Full text, video and audio online at American Rhetoric

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness — not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another.

In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood, for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world — millions of despairing men, women and little children — victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say — do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed — the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes — men who despise you — enslave you — who regiment your lives — tell you what to do — what to think or what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men — machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate — the unloved and the unnatural!
Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the 17th Chapter of St. Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” — not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power — the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.
Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up, Hannah. The clouds are lifting. The sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world, a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality. Look up, Hannah. The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow — into the light of hope, into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up



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Say no to Racism

Last week was the commemoration of the 1992 Rostock racism riot. It was the worst mob attack against foreigners in postwar Germany. Several hundred right-wing extremist were involved, and about 3000 neighborhood onlookers stood by, supporting them. Supporting them! The violent, racist extremist! What have happened in the decade after this horrible day? Is Europe nowadays a safer place for foreigners? I wish I could say discrimination is gone, but I fear we move more into the old habit of us versus them. Isn’t it time to look each other in the eyes and see we both want to same? Live a happy, fulfilling life?

I believe in equality of all human beings, regardless of nationality, skin-color or religion. I do not care if you are black, white, brown, yellow, Christian, Muslim, Greek, Belgium, Afghan, or American. I do not see myself as only a Dutch person in a foreign country, I see myself as an individual that tries to make to most out of his life. And I work hard to make it happen. But I am lucky. I am man, white, not religious and Dutch. I speak three languages fluently and am open and friendly. Some of my traits were given, some were taught, some I had to teach myself. But I do not think myself better than a woman, black, Muslim and Turkish that only speaks one language. I cannot judge her for I do not know which opportunities were given to her. I think her life is probably harder than mine. I am given plenty of opportunities to work, learn and develop; I doubt she is given the same.

Instead of blaming foreigners for the crisis the country (e.g. European Union) is in, look at what options are given to them. An easy blame-game would be to pass the ball to the husband, the immigrant worker who is not integrating and is sticking to his own traditions and beliefs. But that is too easy. In order to integrate one has to feel welcome, and integration, just as tolerance, is a too-way street.

All to often you hear the “integration problem” discussed by politicians, or maybe even with your neighbor. But what is this problem really? That people from a different culture keep their own traditions? Or that they still have a different skin-color? I do not think that living in a rainy country for a long period will make your skin-color turn white, so stop expecting that! People should stop thinking in boxes, and realize that working together is a win-win situation for the whole world. Provide opportunities for people to make a positive impact on the world, invest in the development of all people. Stop discriminating other people because they look different or have different traditions.

My belief is that tolerance and respect for other people is the stepping stone for the future. You do not have to share my belief; my belief does not require you to. I do not assume to hold the absolute truth, but I do belief that you don’t either.

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Reasons to be Tolerant of Gay people

There is still a lot of debate about the rights and duties of gay and lesbian people. I have started a short list with points why we should be tolerant of gay/lesbian people. The list is not complete, I would like you to contribute to make the list as long as possible. Of course my statements cannot apply to all gay people, just as statements about hetero people can never apply to all “straight people”. I do not mean to offend anybody; I am trying to create a tolerant community where everything can be discussed. As long as the comments are written with respect for other people, feel free to join the discussion.Gay Parade

I believe gay (that obviously includes lesbians, bisexuals and trans-genders) people should be tolerated because…


1. They are valuable members of our society.

Everyone can think of someone that they believe is providing value for their community and that happen to be gay. The music industry has plenty of famous, talented gay people. Also in politics one sees high positioned gay people. The German minister of Foreign Affairs (Guido Westerwelle) for example, or the Dutch minister of Finance (Jan Kees de Jager). And there are millions of gay people working hard in all industries, just like you and me trying to make a decent living and to live a happy fulfilling life.


2. They are fighting to be accepted and tolerated without forcing their own beliefs on other people.

Gay people are not trying to convince you to be gay. They do not feel offended that you do not feel the same way as they do. They are open and tolerant towards others beliefs. They are fighting to get equal rights as gay couples, being able to marry and adopt children. Why should anybody have a problem with that? Give them the same rights; they already have the same duties as everyone else!


3. They got style and guts.

Gay people are very influential in the fashion world. One could say they just have a keener eye for fashion but I think it is also because they have guts. They are not afraid to come up with new trends and think outside the box. Fashion would be quite boring if everyone would only design conformist outfits.


4. I have started with the first three reasons, it is up to you to make number four!







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Olympics 2012: Games of Tolerance?

The summer Olympics 2012 in London has been going on for over a week now. Exhilarating sports performances by the worlds best sportsmen and –women. It is the first Olympics where every participating country has sent women to compete for Olympic gold. At the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 no women competed, as “inclusion of women would be impractical uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect”. The Olympics have come a long way since 1896, but at what price? Are the Olympic Games about the best athletes competing in different disciplines or is it a cunning political tool to promote human rights? Let us take a look at the last week and what was tolerated and what not.Olympic flag


The most reported tolerance issue is the participation of women from all attending nations. For the first time, Brunei, Qatar and, most notably, Saudi Arabia have sent female athletes to the Olympics. This is a great achievement for the Olympic Committee and sends the right signal that women are encouraged to participate in sports. But this also created some difficulties. The International Judo Federation demanded that the Saudi Arabian judo fighter Shaherkani competed without headscarf for safety reasons. The Saudis threatened to withdraw Shaherkani and the federation changed their mind. One can only wonder how the federation came up with the “safety reasons” argument in the first place, and how easily this safety regulation was absolved for the sake of female participation. Furthermore, in less than a minute and a half it became clear that Shaherkani’s lack of Olympic-caliber skills diluted the purpose of the Olympics Games, namely the competition of the best athletes in the world. For most disciplines athletes are required to reach a certain benchmark in order to compete on the highest global level. One can only hope that her short-lived appearance in the Olympics creates a surge of female participation in sports in strict Islamic countries. Unfortunately, much of Saudi Arabia failed to watch Shaherkani’s accomplishments on tv because her fight took place during prayer time in the country. Was this also a requirement of the Saudis to allow her participation? As long as the people do not see what happened, it did not really happen. This way the participation of females in sports can be swept under the rug and life in Saudi Arabia can continue like before, with no females openly practicing sports. I sincerely hope that women will be treated as equals in these countries soon, there is still a very long way to go though. And what does this now mean for other religious attributes at the Olympic Games? Olympics 2016, a Sikh swimmer with a turban? Even though the participation of women of all nations is a great accomplishment, how far do we want to tolerate the demands of religion in order to have women from women-opressing countries compete? Are we not sending wrong signals here? Once again the boundaries of tolerance will be different between culture and even individuals. I have nothing against headscarves, but I do against the oppression of women. Where lies the boundary and what is wisdom in such a difficult cultural question?


German rower Nadja Drygalla left the Olympics after reports that her boyfriend is a member of the extremist political party NPD. The party is described as racist, anti-Semitic and inspired by the Nazis. It is represented in two state assemblies in East Germany. In other words: a legal, albeit questionable, political party in Germany. In a recent interview she distances herself from their extreme right political viewpoints. It was her own decision to leave the Olympic village after media “found out about the relationship”. She did not want to burden her team with the media frenzy that followed. The media found out that her boyfriend, who used to row for Germany in the youth team, was involved with political activities of the NPD and were looking for a scandal. “Neo-Nazi girlfriend participates for Germany at the Olympics” is a headline fitting perfectly on a tabloid front page. National Socialism and Anti-Semitic views are way beyond my line of tolerance, but I do not think it is up to the Olympic Committee to judge a sportswoman on the political perspectives of her boyfriend. One can of course discuss her choice of boyfriend, and whether or not she should tolerate his perspective.

The expulsion of Voula Papachristou is more straightforward. Her tweet translates to: “With so many Africans in Greece… At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat home made food!!!” This is obvious racism and definitely not tolerated from Olympic participants, nor anyone for that matter. Personally I don’t mind jokes about different nationalities. For example I live in Germany and am made fun of by not being able to drive, always having a camper on holiday, smoking weed all day and living under water. No harm done, we are just joking around. Jokes involving racial/national differences can be funny, but should be made in the right context, e.g. comedy clubs. Not at the Olympic Games.

The badminton scandal involves Chinese, South Korean and Indonesian badminton players trying to lose in order to have an easier next round. They played to lose and got exactly what they were playing for. They all got expelled, losing in a very sad way. The Olympics is a competition were the expectations are high and players have to perform on the A-level. Cowardly play like this, embarrasing themselves in front of fans was not tolerated. And it shouldn’t be.

Of course there have been the drug expulsions. Being Dutch and former university student I have a more liberal view on drugs, but drugs and Olympic Games do not match. Drugs are not, will not and should not be allowed for professional sportsmen and women. The expulsion of US Judoka Nicholas Delpopolo did make me grin a little. He was expelled after testing positive for Marijuana. He ate the wrong cakes, accidentally. He probably visited Amsterdam and just wanted to drink a cup of coffee and have a cupcake. Wrong coffeeshop my friend.

All in all it has been an interesting week at the Olympics. How did you perceive the tolerance issues? Did the Olympic committee make the right decisions? And how do you feel about the influence of the media on these items? Feel free to share, and spread some tolerance in your own circles!

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