The Art of Tolerance

On my recent weekend away in Paris I went up the Eiffel tower and when I looked down at the Champs de Mars from the viewing platform I noticed, through the morning mist, two rows of “people” lined up on either side of the lawn.  I decided to investigate a little more closely after I had descended the tower.

On closer inspection I found that they were bears rather than people and that they formed a touring exhibition of United Buddy Bears.  The bears are on display in Paris (for a few weeks) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the twinning of Paris and Berlin and the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty.

There are approximately 140 United Buddy Bears representing the countries recognised by the United Nations.  Since 2002 the bears have toured the globe promoting tolerance and understanding between different nations, cultures and religions.  The buddy bears stand ‘hand in hand’ symbolising the vision of a peaceful world.

The Buddy Bear motto is:

We have to get to know each other better…

…it makes us understand each other better, trust each other more, and live together more peacefully.

The bears are over 6 feet high and each one is individually designed by an artist from the country that the bear represents.  Therefore each bear represents a nation and its culture but they do not represent any political belief system.

Rather than show you a bear representing any one particular nation I have chosen to show you the Golden Rule and Global Ethic bears that were designed by Eva Herlitz, they are united by a heart. The Golden Rule is defined as ‘Try to treat everyone the way you would want to be treated.’  The bear on the left displays the Golden Rule written in many languages and the bear on the right shows symbols and original texts covering the Golden Rule from the scriptures of each of the seven major religions that embrace the Golden Rule and which promote peace amongst the different religions.

All the nations’ bears in the Paris exhibition are listed here, along with the name of the artist and their explanation of their interpretation of the purpose of their Buddy Bear.  I found that some of the ideas worked much better than others.  But I suppose that is bound to happen because art is open to interpretation by each of us as individuals.