Respect is everything

The lack of respect surely is a wound from which the whole world suffers, even among us.

First, respect demands recognition of the other as other, distinct from us. To respect the other implies that the other has the right to exist and be accepted for what the other is. This attitude is contrary to the intolerance that rejects the other and the other’s way of being.

Consequently there should not be discrimination, but respect, for homosexuals or others in the LGBTQ community: first as human beings, carriers of something sacred and untouchable: the dignity intrinsic in every being, such as intelligence, feelings and loving; and to guarantee their right to be as they are and to live according to their own sexual, racial or religious condition.

In one of their most beautiful documents, “Joy and Hope” (Gaudium et Spes), the Bishops of the world who gathered in Rome in the Vatican II Council (1962-1965), affirmed with certitude that:«Everyone must respect without exception a fellow human being as “another I”» (n.27).

Second, acknowledging the other means seeing in him value as himself, because existing as a unique and singular being in the universe expresses something of the Being, of the boundless Original Source of energy and capabilities whence we all come (the Basic Energy of the Universe, the best metaphor for the meaning of God). Each of us carries within something of the mystery of the world, of which each is a part. Because of that, a limit is established between the other and myself that cannot be transgressed: the sacred aspect of every human being and, deep down, of every being, because all that exists and lives deserves to exist and to live.

Buddhism, presented as wisdom rather than as a faith, teaches respect for every being, especially those who suffer (compassion). The daily wisdom of Feng Shui integrates and respects all the elements, the winds, the water, the soil, the different species. Likewise, Hinduism preaches respect as active non-violence (ahimsa), that found its referential archetype in Mahatma Gandhi.

Christianity knows the image of Saint Francis of Assisi, who respected all beings: the slug on the path, the bee lost in winter searching for food, the small wild plants that in his encyclical letter, “On the Caring for the Common Home”, quoting Saint Francis, Pope Francis calls on us to respect because, in their way, they also praise God (n.12).

The Bishops, in the document mentioned above, broadened respect when they affirmed:«Respect must be extended to those who in social, political and also in religious issues, think and act in different manners than ours» (n.28). Such a calling is currently important in the Brazilian situation, torn by religious intolerance (invasion of terreiros de candomblé), and political intolerance, through disrespectful names for those who are active in the social scene or who have a different reading of the historical reality

We have experienced incidents of great disrespect by students against teachers, using physical and symbolic violence with names we cannot write here. Many ask: what kind of mothers have raised those children? The correct question, however, is different: what kind of fathers have those children had? It is the father’s mission, often hard to carry out, to teach respect, to set the limits and pass on the personal and social values without which a society ceases to be civilized. Presently, with the eclipse of the father figure, sectors arise in society without fathers and because of that with no sense of limits and respect. As we have often seen, the result is the easy resort to violence, even deadly violence, to solve personal disagreements.

Arming the population, as the present President suggests, is not only irresponsible but furthers the current dangerous lack of respect and increased fracturing of all limits.

Lastly, one of the greatest expressions of disrespect is towards Mother Earth, with her over-exploited ecosystems, the dreadful deforestation of the Amazon and excessive use of agro-toxins that poison the soil, the waters, and the air. This lack of ecological respect can bring surprisingly grave consequences against life, biodiversity, and our future as a civilization and as a species.

Leonardo Boff Eco-Theologian-Philosopher,Earthcharter Commission

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,

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