UN's Ban warns of dangers of losing cultural differences as world grows closer

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today cautioned against the erosion of diversity and rise of discrimination as the forces of globalization and technology bring disparate communities across the world closer together, in a message marking the International Day for Tolerance.

In his message for the Day, observed annually on November 16, Mr. Ban said that Internet chatrooms and social networking sites enable us to connect with more people than we can hope to meet.

“Global branding and the growth of international social and cultural movements expose us on a daily basis to the tastes, opinions and habits of our fellow men and women,” said Mr. Ban.

He said that there are more ways than ever to communicate and to benefit from cross-cultural exchanges. “And as we grow closer, there is also a danger that the human propensity to build walls will assert itself, separating people into ‘us’ and ‘them.’”

All too often these divisions lead to the victimization of some of the most vulnerable groups in society, defined along lines of nationality, ethnicity and religion among other markers that single out minorities.

“Tolerance does not mean indifference or a grudging acceptance of others,” said Mr. Ban. “It is a way of life based on mutual understanding and respect for others, and on the belief that global diversity is to be embraced, not feared.”

On behalf of the “most vulnerable communities, and for all humanity, let us work together to promote tolerance,” he urged.

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