The concept of Religious Tolerance was not conceived by America, nor by England or Europe. It does not come from ancient Greece. It is not a gift to mankind from Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam.
The concept of Religious Tolerance comes from – are you sitting down? – Iran.
That’s right; we owe the invention of Religious Tolerance to Iran. It was a long time ago. It was called ‘Persia’ at the time. But ‘Persia’ is ‘Iran’.
In 539 BCE, King Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia. This was at the time of the Babylonian Exile, when surviving Jewish tribes from Jerusalem, as well as many other people from many other places, had been taken captive and brought to Babylon. Cyrus now became the new ruler of Babylon, and on a cylinder – which was the usual place to write things down at the time – Cyrus wrote a chronicle of his battles and his royal decrees. This cylinder still exists. You can find it in the British Museum.
His decrees can be paraphrased into three major categories:
1.Racial, linguistic, and religious equality were official policies of the Empire;
2.Slaves and all deported peoples were to be allowed to return to their homes;
3.All destroyed Temples were to be restored;
This was the world’s first Charter of Human Rights.
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