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Tolerance and Peace: A New Year's Wish for 2016

After a year marked by racial and religious tensions, there are hopes for peace in the New Year.(Maryhere/Morguefile)
After a year marked by racial and religious tensions, there are hopes for peace in the New Year.(Maryhere/Morguefile)
December 31, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - From Gov. Rick Snyder's unwelcoming stance on refugees to racial tensions fueled by police shootings, 2015 seemed to be lacking "peace on earth and goodwill toward men." But some faith groups are optimistic that 2016 can bring about tolerance and respect.

Randy Block, director of the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, said that what makes the United States unique is its diversity. In a civilized country, he said, people should be able to agree to disagree without hate.

"We should have respect for the worth and dignity of each person, even if they don't agree with us," he said. "If we have that kind of respect and tolerance for differences among us, then we have more hope of communication and working out common solutions."

While there are no simple solutions to the world's problems, Block said it can begin at the individual level with people truly listening to others and gaining a better understanding of their perspectives and needs. At the policy level, he said, he believes social justice cannot be achieved without fair laws that treat each person as an individual, and don't discriminate based on race, religion, economic status or other factors.

Block said Americans are fortunate to be a well-informed public, but it's how that information is used that can cause problems.

"We have to recognize that no one person has all the answers," he said. "We need to be able to take time to really hear what that other person is saying and get all the facts, before we jump to conclusions about what we see and what we read."

He said it's important that those who want to make a difference know they can, and also that groups in Michigan and around the nation are working for equality and justice.

"We're going to continue to expose when there are oppressions against people - who may be gay, may be women, may be African-American, may be Muslims - so that we can show that love is stronger than hate."

The Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network is made up of churches from various faiths in 26 communities throughout the state.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI