If people of different faiths and cultures are to rebuild trust and confidence again after tensions caused by conflicts and acts of terrorism, then they must actively learn about and respect the beliefs and traditions of each other- and not just grudgingly accept them, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.
Mr. Annan told the annual inter-faith service of commitment to the UN's work, held at St. Bartholomew's Church in New York and attended by representatives of more than 20 faiths, that tolerance is essential and should be defined broadly.
"Tolerance cannot just be a grudging forbearance of other people's differences. Tolerance is not a synonym for 'putting up with' other people's perceived peculiarities," he said.
The Secretary-General stressed that suspicion and prejudice between cultures can only be overcome when there is "an active effort to learn more about each other, to understand the wellsprings of those differences, and to discover what is best in each other's beliefs and traditions."
Last night, at a separate service held at the Holy Family Church in New York, Mr. Annan offered his prayers for peace and for the UN to be as effective an instrument as it can be in the year ahead.
The Secretary-General listed the continuing turmoil in Iraq, the humanitarian and security crisis in Sudan's Darfur region, acts of terrorism, the scourge of HIV/AIDS, armed conflict, human rights violations, disease and extreme poverty as some of the biggest challenges facing the world body.