Believing all people are equal is one thing, putting it into practice is another. The real test of our belief comes when we are confronted with the needs of people who are very different to us. Discussing what should happen to people of different colour, beliefs, values and religion, when they break the law, compared to what we think should happen to people we know and like when they break the law.
When we are faced with the actions of criminals, terrorists, drug dealers or paedophiles, the belief in equality demands that they be shown the same courtesy and respect as anyone else. We may be disgusted by their actions but we have no idea how they came to be the way they are, or how many people failed to take the opportunity to prevent it from happening, probably without knowing it.
I once held a three-month-old baby who, given the right circumstances, had the potential to change the world for the better, and felt a strong urge to apologise to this beautiful little boy. From my experience of working with troubled families, I was aware that fifteen years from then someone like me could be holding him as he died from a drug overdose or a police bullet.
All babies are born into circumstances they have no control over, and are shaped by a culture and social system they have no control over. They are, and should be, held accountable for how their actions affect other people, because that is how we learn what is acceptable, but how much are they to blame for having the beliefs and values that guide them? How much responsibility should the culture and social system take for the way its children turn out? When a great achiever is being rewarded, many people are keen to reveal how they played a part in his or her success but how many step forward to admit to the part they played in shaping a criminal or a terrorist?
Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.