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Toleration is key to a great future for a great city

PUBLISHED: 12:03 27 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:28 07 September 2010

PEACE on earth and goodwill to all men is too much to hope for, even at this special time of year. There are countries in this fractious world which haven t known real peace for generations and may never do, at least not in our lifetimes. The situation i

PEACE on earth and goodwill to all men is too much to hope for, even at this special time of year. There are countries in this fractious world which haven't known real peace for generations and may never do, at least not in our lifetimes.

The situation in Iraq is lamentable, and of the West's own making, notwithstanding Saddam Hussein's tyranny.

Solutions in the Middle East seem a long way off. Parts of Africa, as ever, are gripped by fear, bloodshed and terrible deprivation on a level we can only begin to imagine.

And so any prospect of world peace is elusive, just as genuine goodwill is in short supply in every corner of the globe.

What we do have, and have in abundance in this great city, is toleration, and on that peg hangs our hope for the future.

Last Christmas, Londoners were looking back with uncertainty on a traumatic year, still shell-shocked by the worst terrorist atrocity the capital has ever witnessed.

Yet the feared backlash, the community divisions, the underlying tensions, have never been allowed to disrupt a way of life that is prized by everyone who has made a home here. Of course there is racism. Of course there is discrimination. Of course there is fear and suspicion. All the things that terrorists rely on to ply their evil trade are evident here, as they are in every great city.

But ranged against these negative forces is a great and positive determination on the part of the vast majority of people to live and let live, a simple but powerful philosophy that in truth holds out more hope for the future than any sentimental longing for universal peace and goodwill.

Toleration is what makes multi-cultural societies work. It is what must be encouraged above all else because it does not require agreement. And in the absence of agreement, toleration is the vital tool that enables us to respect the beliefs and cultures of others even when they appear to be in direct conflict with our own.

It is something we can all achieve and buy into, this simple spirit of toleration which demands so little of us but but in return makes everything possible between peoples who in truth may have very little in common, apart from the normal desire to live decent, honest lives

Peace on earth and goodwill to all men would truly be a wonderful thing to wake up to one day.

That essential Christmas message remains powerful and universal in its calling. But in the absence of these higher aspirations, toleration can and will make a world of difference.

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