International Day for Tolerance: Building Peace in Kyrgyzstan

By 2050, the world population is projected to reach 9.9 billion - an increase of more than 25% from the current 2020 population of 7.8 billion. This already large number of people living in different countries, cultures, and with different religions beliefs requires some basic understanding, common values, mutual respect and… tolerance. To strengthen tolerance by fostering mutual understanding among cultures and people, the 16th of November is annually marked worldwide as International Day for Tolerance with organisations like Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI) in Central Asia.

“Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human,” is written in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, signed in 1995, by the Member States of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The Declaration acknowledges efforts to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and for these ends to practice tolerance and living together in peace with one another.

The International Day for Tolerance serves as an opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate the rights, values and beliefs of others. For this, today across the globe, online discussions are taking place on the benefits of tolerance and negative ones of intolerance, discrimination and injustice. We will virtually join this discussion by seeing through the everyday work, contribution and impact of FTI, whose experience in dealing with conflicts is unique and is developing.

One spotlight will be shone on Kyrgyzstan – a multicultural country with people from more than 100 nationalities living there, which in addition to being caught off-guard by the pandemic – just like the rest of the world – has also been challenged by national disturbances.


Striving for an inclusive society and diversity

Begimai Bekbolotova Picture from the archive of Begimai Bekbolotova
Begimai Bekbolotova / Photo: From the archive of Begimai Bekbolotova

In the beginning of her discussion with Youth Time, Begimai Bekbolotova, Public Relations Manager of the FTI and Regional Liaison Officer for the Central Asian secretariat of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) gives a basic explanation for our readers regarding the importance of tolerance in today’s world.

“The world is very large. Different people with various cultures, language, mentality, lifestyles, religions and diverse points of view live in it, so it is important to accept and respect each other.”

She emphasises that in the modern world, where everything is so globalised, tolerance has become a necessity for peaceful coexistence.

Photo: FTI
Photo: FTI

“It is important that people learn from an early age to accept ‘other’ people who are different, because non-acceptance brings a lot of problems and conflicts. We, as humanity, must strive for an inclusive society and diversity, where tolerance can only truly exist in a society where intolerant people are not accepted.”


Spreading the values of peace-building and tolerance

Knowing that FTI is committed to preventing conflicts, building peace and justice both in cities and in highland, remote and border areas, she further elaborates how they ensure this.

Photo: FTI
Photo: FTI

Kyrgyzstan is a multicultural country, with people from more than 100 nationalities living here.

“For the last 20 years we, Foundation for Tolerance International, have worked to spread the values of tolerance, diversity, peace and striving together for positive changes. Our main vision is that we work with communities for communities and that we establish strong ties with local communities to promote a culture of non-violence, tolerance and regional cooperation.”

She further adds “We strive to have peace-makers and people in every community who, even without projects, could spread our core values.”


The role of the youth in promoting tolerance

While checking FTI’s webpage, you may notice that they include young activists to solve problems in their communities. Bekbolotova digs deeper into how this has been going so far and how they see the role of the youth in improving societies through various activities promoting tolerance.

According to her, recent events in Kyrgyzstan (called revolution) showed that their young people are creative, motivated, creative, energetic, ambitious, ready to unite, fight for the observance of laws and strive for inspiring changes.

“For us, youth is the engine of progress in the country.”

“We pay a lot of attention to work with young people and instill values of tolerance, respect, acceptance of diversity and the desire to be heard. We do this through different innovation programes, and we encourage and support the ideas and projects of young people.”

For instance, currently they are implementing the ‘Mobile Art for Peace’ project, where young people from different regions of Kyrgyzstan will create their art projects and spread the values of tolerance and peace.


A message for International Day of Tolerance 2020: “Let’s always hear each other”

She reminds us on the double impact that COVID-19 has had on society.

“In 2020, due to the pandemic and the socio-political situation in Kyrgyzstan, the concept of peace and tolerance has become fragile. On the one hand, a pandemic that divided people and created a monstrous atmosphere of hatred, aggression and fear.”

FTI Team: Photo: FTI
FTI Team: Photo: FTI

“On the other hand, people learned tolerance, mutual assistance, consolidated, helped and supported each other with all their might. All over the world, we saw millions of caring people who helped, sang from their windows during quarantine, so that people just smile and stay in a good mood. “

Recalling that in Kyrgyzstan they suffered a power coup when people were ready to beat each other in order to convince them that they were right and their beliefs.

She highlights as the key message while celebrating this day today;

“I would like to wish that we always hear each other, and don’t forget about love, understanding and that deep down we are all the same.”

As previously discussed on “International Day of Peace: Resolving Differences” piece, serious and deadly crises such as COVID-19 pandemic, are the nearest to the ideal case for achieving worldwide peace.

Happy International Day for Tolerance from us at Youth Time!

Photos: FTI, From the archive of Begimai Bekbolotova, Shutterstock

Get some more peace right here:

International Day of Peace: Resolving Differences 

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