Former Moderator says a cohesive society trumps a tolerant one

A former Moderator has urged people to work towards creating a more cohesive society where differences are “respected, valued and celebrated”.

Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood argued that the concept of tolerance merely suggested “holding back” negative feelings and behaviour.

Speaking at an international event in Warsaw in Poland last night, she said cohesiveness enriched local communities.

Dr Hood In Tarik Samir’s Gallery in Sarajevo
Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood In Tarik Samir’s Gallery in Sarajevo. Photo by John Young

Dr Hood was one of the speakers at an Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe event titled Equality of Opportunity – equal participation in political and public life.

She said cohesiveness was an ideal that she had learned from her work to tackle hatred and promote tolerance and understanding through the Scottish board of the Remembering Srebrenica charity.

In 1995, more than 8,000 people, mainly Muslim men and boys, were murdered by the Bosnian Serb army.


Addressing the UK delegation to the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe, Dr Hood said: “In our (Remembering Srebrenica) education programme, we promote the notion of a cohesive society rather than a tolerant community.

“Tolerance’ may imply ‘tolerating’ difference and suggests that tolerance is holding back negative feelings and behaviour.

“In a cohesive community, difference is respected, valued, and celebrated - recognised as enriching local communities and wider society.”

Mrs Hood, who was Moderator of the General Assembly in 2013-14 and is a Chaplain to the Queen, was made an OBE in June for services to the Church of Scotland and the charity, which she chairs.

She dedicated her award to the Mothers of Srebrenica organisation and the many survivors of the massacre who bravely speak out to try and tackle hatred and intolerance.

lorna hood
Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood addresses the audience.

Dr Hood, who retired last year after serving as minister of Renfrew North Parish Church for 37 years, also spoke about her career.

“Women have been ordained in the Church of Scotland since 1968 following years of argument and discussion,” she said.

“At times it was met with fierce resistance and anger threating to destroy the unity and peace of the Church.

“The flyer for this event said that we take as our starting point the principle that everybody is born free and equal.

“But that was an argument that had to be won in my church in 1968 and in other churches since then as they have pondered the ordination of women.

“An argument that had to be won not simply from a justice or human rights point of view, but from a theological point of view.”

The other speakers were Svetlana Artikova, deputy chairman of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis (parliament) of Uzbekistan, and former British actor and gay rights campaigner, Lord Cashman.

The event was co-sponsored by a range of delegations from countries including Bulgaria, Belgium, Canada, France and Ukraine.