Positive Indications for Tolerance
  • Rule of law. Say more–what law? What makes law good? Rights and privileges guaranteed to all individuals rather than associated with groups and group affiliation. While also allowing individual right to voluntary affiliation with identity-generating groups or institutions.
  • Honest civil service free of corruption

  • Education, especially of women

  • Reduction of ethnic, tribal, and religious hatred and strife

  • Development of local social capital–trust across people from different groups; ability to trust people you don’t know

  • Religiously based commitment to the acceptance and recognition of God’s love for all people

  • Ordinary people realizing their own hopes and aspirations are shared by others.

  • Guarantees of access to rights, protections, and economic opportunities provided to all regardless of group membership.

Forces Enhancing Tolerance
  • Liberal religion

  • Open, unintimidated media

  • Ordinary people

  • Mingled experiences with others, intermarriage (?–didn’t work in Rwanda)

  • Open debate about society’s goals and challenges

  • Independent, unintimidated judiciary

Forces Against Tolerance
  • Government controlled media

  • Corrupt tribal or ethnically based regimes in multi-ethnic, multi-religion societies

  • Declining economies, increasing poverty

  • Rights, privileges, and property allocated by group identity/affiliation

  • Lack of facts about the situation, beliefs, and values of others accompanied by extreme demonization of the other

  • Anti-modernism, anti-democracy ideologies

  • Repressive governments

  • Religious teaching that encourages hatred and distrust of other religions

  • Demonization or de-humanization of “other”

Consequences of Intolerance
  • Civil wars

  • Corruption

  • Ethnically based politics

  • Declining investment in healthcare infrastructure and re-appearance of diseases (sleeping sickness, eradicated in 1965, reappeared in 20001)

Impediments to work that improves tolerance
  • Government corruption

  • Deliberate government manipulation of ethnic rivalries

  • Ethnic, tribal, or religious identity as ultimate goals

  • Small radii of trust

  • Local loyalties maintained by fear of larger events and trends

Possible areas of study
  • Religious studies

  • Cultural history

  • Media studies

  • History of racism in the United States from the Civil War to the present

  • Specific regional studies with a focus on the early stages of strife

    • Sri Lanka

    • Bosnia

    • Israel 2009

    • Rwanda

    • Failed States

  • Successful efforts at reconciliation or positive approaches

    • Rwanda post-genocide
  • South Africa post-apartheid

    • Northern Ireland after “the troubles?”
  • Ghana’s conscious effort to avoid the troubles experienced in neighboring countries, especially Nigeria

  • Religions with acceptance of other religions as a fundamental principle: Quakers, B’hai

  • Within less tolerant religions (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity) organizations and leaders whohave a more tolerant outlook

  • What is the positive role of identity in contrast to assertions of identity that foster intolerance?

  • What is the role of memory and when does memory reinforce intolerance conflicts?

  • How do economic conditions, politics, and government policy reinforce or ameliorate ethnic intolerance?


  1. Akyeampong, Emmanuel Kwaku. Disease in West African History, ch. 9 in Themes in West Africa’s History. Ohio University Press. 2006. ↩︎