In his piece »Nathan the Wise«, Lessing created a figure that symbolises the non-prejudiced and respectful relationship between the world's religions.
The story is set in Jerusalem during the Crusades of the 12th century. This is where the clever, diplomatic Jewish merchant Nathan lives with his foster daughter Recha. She falls in love with a young Knight Templar who is taken prisoner by the ruler Saladin. Although he rescues her from the flames of her father's burning house, he refuses to requite her love because he believes she is Jewish. Only at the end do they discover that they are in fact siblings and unbeknownst to all, also the offspring of a Muslim who turns out to be the deceased brother of Saladin, the ruler of Jerusalem. The familial ties bring everyone together who had belonged to the same family to begin with. They no longer care about religious denominations or prejudice. They accept and assign their new identities without hesitation in the same way money passes easily between political and economic powers.
Lessing addresses the concepts of his time and lets his characters negotiate the core values of humanist ideals. As we reacquaint ourselves with this classic, we cannot help but reassess whether Lessing's view of mutual respect and tolerance still apply today. For the question of peaceful coexistence is also one of how to live together despite our differences and incompatibilities. Is this a vision of the future within our grasp, or simply a utopia?