HAVING served at home and around the world in the foreign service of the United States for more than 30 years, I have found that, often, those of us who can and should use our influence to promote tolerance fail to do so. In our silence, we inadvertently reinforce prejudices.
Homophobia, like racism and xenophobia, exists to varying degrees in all societies. Every day, in countries all over the world, people are persecuted, vilified, beaten and even killed because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Homophobia, whether open or hidden, causes enormous suffering for those who perpetrate it, those who are the victims of it, and those who simply tolerate it.
Now is always the time to do what is right. While it is true that the responsibility for hate crimes rests with the perpetrators themselves, we all share a duty to counter intolerance and prejudice wherever we can.
We have all read or heard of examples around the world where there has been violence perpetrated against individuals simply because of their sexual orientation.
This is, sadly, all too common. It is equally disheartening that those human rights activists defending the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people also face harassment and arrest. Also disturbing are journalists and artistes who incite hatred and violence through veiled writings and musical lyrics.
As a life-long Christian, I sometimes struggle with the religious beliefs which seem to be at odds with tolerance. Then I simply consider afresh the gospel of love, which convinces me that tolerance is in accordance with Christian faith and practice; it is at the core of Christianity. Tolerance does not ask us to abandon our faith or our values.
I understand well that every nation has its own moral standards and no nation should ignore its own moral compass. But there is also a universal moral standard that crosses all political borders. As we come into the fullness of our humanity, we must not allow hatred and violence to be what defines us. For me, it simply boils down to my belief in and hope that we all follow the advice of Matthew 7:12, and treat others as we would wish ourselves to be treated. That is why such action is called "golden".
Pamela E Bridgewater is US Ambassador to Jamaica.