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Day of Tolerance gives chance to uplift diversity

Seeking to build bridges on the Gonzaga University campus and with the community, Tracy Ellis-Ward, director of Gonzaga’s Unity Multicultural Center, said the third annual celebration of International Day of Tolerance was held to honor and advance tolerance, dialogue, respect and cooperation between different cultures: “It’s a powerful presence to stand together.”

Day of tolerance- GU

International Day of Tolerance on Gonzaga's campus

Leaders from the business, faith, education and government communities spoke on Nov. 16 as more than 200 participants formed a human chain by linking arms and standing together.

Councilman Mike Fagan read Spokane Mayor David Condon’s proclamation of the 2012 Day of Tolerance, held in recognition that “this is a multicultural society” and that diversity and inclusion “mean a quality of life.”

Spokane Councilwoman Amber Waldref said she supports honoring diverse individuals “in our midst and in our neighborhoods,” because they often “experience oppression, bias and injustice.”

She said the gathering was not only a symbolic way to express solidarity but also a way for people to take action against hate.

Amber shared some statistics, including that 1.7 million young people are homeless, that 97 percent of rapists never go to jail, that 20 percent of hate crimes are based on religion, that half of Americans live in poverty, that Native American women are the most often raped and abused, that Hispanic people face discrimination in housing and that one in 10 drops out of school.

Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub said it was appropriate to mark the Day of Tolerance the day after the sentencing of a member of the police department, whose actions took the life of someone who represented many communities of disadvantaged people. 

“We are to serve people in the community, regardless of skin color, religion, language or opinion,” he said.

Gonzaga students then read more statistics about unemployment, drop outs, domestic violence, homelessness, hunger, disability, lack of clean water, human trafficking, slavery, forced labor, disease, unequal income, environmental hazards on reservations, access to health care, literacy, childhood deaths and the lack of prenatal care.

These facts, said Tracy, indicate that people, based on racial, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation and other differences, experience injustices and inequities in communities, states and internationally.

Mike Herzog, Gonzaga’s chief of staff, thanked those gathered to support the civic virtue of tolerance as part of Gonzaga’s 125th anniversary and 100th anniversary of the Law School.

“Intolerance seems to be the oldest tradition and there seems to be little progress in respecting and caring for all,” he said.  “The U.S. Constitution guaranteed rights for all, but excluded slaves and women.  We have a racist heritage, unequal compensation for women and bias based on sexual orientation.  The first class at Gonzaga had no Native Americans or women.”

He quoted Alexander Solzenitzen, who said intolerance is the first sign of inadequate education.

“We must have tolerance at a Catholic Jesuit University.  Ignatius asks us to see God in all things, and that includes in all human beings.  Our institution, community, nation and world have made progress, but we have more to do to be a tolerant world,” Mike said.

“There’s a difference between tolerance and acceptance and trust,” he continued.  “We need to pledge to move beyond tolerance to acceptance so we can make choices and act out of our true and best selves.  Let us do the hard work to transform the system from intolerance to acceptance.”

For information, call 313-5836.

Copyright © December 2012 - The Fig Tree,