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Saturday, January 4, 2014

IN his New Year blessing, Pope Francis calls for greater solidarity in the world. Solidarity, I believe, means greater tolerance for people’s differences, whether these differences are cultural, social, physical, mental, spiritual, political, religious or racial.

Much of the world’s intolerance has been brought about by old-world ideas of purity. Yet people who speak of a pure race or a small but more committed church are not doing humanity a favor. This philosophy of purity is mere bigotry—bigotry that has paved the way for a lot of injustice and oppression in the world.

Some people are extremely paranoid of those who do not share their thoughts and ideas. For instance, there are people who will not entertain the idea of getting to know any person of another faith. Neither will they entertain the idea of stepping into a country where calls for prayer resound all over the city five times a day.


Frankly, I think this display of intolerance is unforgivable and ungodly. All religions are supposed to uplift people’s sense of humanity. Those who wage war do not do so for religion’s sake but for fanaticism’s sake. They are extremists who have tragically lost perspective of their own faith.

Those who preach livid hatred against those who do not believe as they do are not doing God’s work. God teaches solidarity not supremacy. No one religion is superior to another. The insistence that there is only one way to be saved or one road to the Kingdom of God is what is tearing the world apart.

Theists hold no moral ascendancy over agnostics or atheists. One need not be a believer of the divine to do good work or ironically to do God’s work. Religions do not have the exclusive franchise to God’s grace. Religion does not redeem us. We redeem ourselves.

God obviously celebrated diversity when He made each one of us in His own image and likeness yet endowed us with individual differences. People often misunderstand. We do not have to be the same to stand on equal footing before God or humankind. Equality is not sameness. It is oneness.

This is the solidarity, I believe, Pope Francis calls for in his New Year blessing.

I believe Pope Francis calls for greater tolerance in a world of growing diversity. Why must we discriminate against those who do not act, speak, think or believe as we do? Different does not mean inferior. Different simply means “not the same.” Diversity is not a dirty word. Diversity should be embraced rather than feared.

Purity a.k.a. perfection is unreal. Only those who lie six feet below the ground exist in a sinless state. But if God had intended for us to live in a sinless state, He would not have given us the free will to commit sin. I think God intended for us to exist in a state of imperfection so we could struggle to find the courage to choose right over wrong.

Our lineage, our circumstances as well as our choices all contribute to the diverse human beings that we are today. The capacity to choose is God’s gift to us. The courage to choose is our gift to God. Free will is not the sin. Intolerance is.

Pope Francis calls for solidarity. I believe He calls for oneness despite our differences.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 05, 2014.


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