Orleksander Feldman headshot.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As a parliamentarian who represents a nation that has seen generations of
internal divisions and persecution, combating hatred is something I firmly
believe must be at the center of global concern.
Too much blood has been
spilled to see this as anything less than an issue that demands attention at the
highest levels and the greatest intensity.
Hatred of the other is nearly
as old as humanity. In fact, it only took one generation of humankind before man
took the life of fellow man. Since that time, countless millions have fallen by
sword, bullet and untold other forms of extermination driven by bias,
discrimination and hatred.
No one would be so naïve as to suggest a world
without hate. The very nature of man is competitive and jealous of others to the
extent that a certain degree of rivalry and anger will always exist. To combat
human nature is an exercise in futility.
Yet alongside this natural-born
hatred which will always exist, is a baseless hatred which, through common
effort and understanding, can be significantly minimized, if not altogether
eradicated. Baseless hatred is motivated not by reason or logic, nor by a
sincere desire to succeed, but by an inexplicable will to remove another by
force, often to the point of murder or genocide.
The classic examples in
modern history of such baseless hatred were those practiced by Nazi Germany, by
the Hutus in Rwanda, by the Serbs in Yugoslavia, among all too many other
examples where lives were taken for no real reason other than the perverse
desire to eradicate one’s fellow man.
The question, therefore, remains
what can truly be done? Would any call to reason have swayed the Nazi racists to
the point where the Holocaust could have been avoided? Could the Rwandan
genocide have been prevented by a better-educated public? Simply put, can love
and respect for one’s fellow man be taught on any significant scale?
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the answer is yes. To address this issue on the basic level, we know many
examples of reformed haters – people who at one point were willing to enact the
most virulent displays of evil, including murder, but eventually “saw the light”
and became ambassadors for tolerance. While such behavioral transformations are
not the norm, they do exist, proving hatred is a character trait that can be
manipulated like any other; one is by no means genetically predisposed to racist
With this understanding in mind, it behooves all of us who
understand the dangers of hate to embrace proactive and innovative initiatives
to educate the world that eliminating phenomena like anti- Semitism and
xenophobia is indeed possible. Not everyone will agree, but I am convinced that
the best place to begin is with religion.
There is no denying that more
people have been inspired to hate others in the name of religion than by any
other motivation. From the historic canards claiming that Jews murdered Jesus to
the modern calls for jihad against the West in the name of Islam, countless
lives have been lost by religiously inspired hatred.
Because it is rooted
not in fact but in demagoguery, this is entirely baseless hatred. Religious
leaders, therefore, need to reject all hatespeak and use their respective
pulpits to denounce the actions and speech of those who hide their hatred behind
faith. More than politicians or any other public figures, clerics bear the onus
of responsibility to ensure that the world becomes a more tolerant
I call upon my fellow parliamentarians the world over to embrace
this quest and to rally the support of religious leaders to speak out against
hatred in the strongest terms possible. As powerful a role as our clerics have
in spreading goodwill and spirituality, they similarly have the influence to
stop the spread of evil. This is a goal which deserves the participation of all
peoples of all backgrounds, wherever they might be found.The writer, a
member of Parliament and president of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, is
chairing a major global gathering of 400 religious leaders in Kiev on Monday.
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