Pluralism and diversity are essential ingredients of a dynamic society. Yet, ingrained values, acquired privileges and established power structures often limit the acceptance people have for different values, identities and religions. In too many places around the world, people are faced with intolerance. Where belief or value systems become absolute - leaving no room for alternative interpretations - and are imposed on others, we speak of 'fundamentalism'. Fundamentalism threatens the peaceful co-existence of people belonging to different ethnic, social, religious or cultural groups. Particularly women, gay and lesbian people and people living with HIV/Aids are the first victims of fundamentalism.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a growth of intolerance, often manifested as fundamentalisms rooted in religion, ethnic affiliation, nationalism, social class and gender. In order to understand these threats to pluralism, Hivos has commissioned research on intolerance of differences across a wide range of communities worldwide. Civil society actors in particular play a crucial role in organising resistance against fundamentalist acts and opening up spaces for pluralism. This dossier departs from the daily realities of civil society actors and takes their experiences, questions and dilemmas as its foundation. Their experiences shed new light on how fundamentalism invades the work of civil society organisations and point to concrete initiatives that best promote pluralism - or fail - in development practice.
The dossier also provides the latest thinking around pluralism and democracy, one of Hivos’ core values. It deepens our understanding of the complexities of our times, such as resurgent nationalisms, the role of religion in societies and how morality can impede public spaces. It also shows how global and local dynamics inform the development of various expressions of fundamentalisms and intolerances. In addition, practical tools are offered for discussing the notion of pluralism with colleagues, fellow citizens and others.