A while ago I did a post “Tolerance is a nasty word“.

I was totally sincere – “tolerance”, I felt, holds connotations of disdain and pained patience.  We should approach other cultures, I explained, with acceptance and celebration.

A friend pointed out that “tolerance” implies different things to different people, and in our changing world this word now means something incredibly positive.  It connotes peaceful and respectful co-existence, paves the way for pluralism, and begins a process of understanding leading to acceptance and true friendship.

My friend spends his time helping people learn how this word – tolerance – is put to its best possible use in a remarkable country, Oman.

While most of the world is familiar with Sunni and Shi’a, the Omani Muslims practice a branch of Islam called “Ibadi” – open and friendly expression of freedom of worship.

One American business man living with his family in Oman said he felt more free to worship there than in the US, “We can still call the school’s Christmas program a Christmas program!”

Sultan Qaboos, the hereditary ruler of Oman, has been steadily improving and educating his country since he came to power in 1970 – helping his people heal from the scars and ravages of colonialism which have given fuel to terrorist groups elsewhere in the Arab world.  With universal suffrage, vastly improved infrastructure, and a growing economy Omanis elect representatives to work on their behalf in Oman’s Consultative Assembly.

Sultan Qaboos and the people of Oman have definitely taken the expression of tolerance to heart.

From Director-General Irina Bokova of UNESCO:

In a world of diversity, tolerance is a prerequisite for peace. It is also a lever for sustainable development, as it encourages the construction of more inclusive and thus more resilient societies that are able to draw on the ideas, creative energy and talents of each of their members.