Unity is achieved when diversity is celebrated

Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004

To a Bahai, there is one God whose successive revelations of his will to humanity has been the chief civilizing force in history.

The agents of this process have been the divine messengers people have seen chiefly as the founders of separate religious systems, but whose common purpose has been to bring the human race to spiritual and moral maturity.

Among the principles the Bahai faith promotes as vital to the achievement of this goal is freedom from prejudice.

Baha'u'llah gave special attention to the problem of prejudice. At the heart of his message is a call for mutual understanding and fellowship among nations, cultures and people. There is, Baha'u'llah insists, only one human race.

Assertions that a particular group of people is in some way superior to the rest of humanity are without foundation. Prejudice, whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or class, is a baneful heritage that must be overcome if humanity is to create a peaceful and just global society.

Baha'u'llah specifically counseled his followers to make an active effort to rid themselves of all prejudices that breed contention and strife. In his primary ethical work, "The Hidden Words," Baha'u'llah exhorted human beings to reflect on this question:

"Know ye not why we created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other."

The very diversity of the human race is, in fact, a means for creating a world based on unity rather than uniformity.

It is not by the suppression of differences that we will arrive at unity, but rather by an increased awareness of and respect for the intrinsic value of each separate culture and, indeed, of each individual.

It is not diversity itself that is the cause of conflict, but rather our immature attitude toward it; our intolerance and misconceptions of others.

This Bahai viewpoint is expressed in the following passage:

"Should any one contend that true and enduring unity can in no (way) be realized in this world, inasmuch as its people widely differ in their manners and habits, their tastes, their temperament and character, their thoughts and their views, to this we make reply that differences are of two kinds; the one is the cause of destruction, as exemplified by the spirit of contention and strife which animates mutually conflicting and antagonistic peoples and nations, whilst the other is the sign of diversity, the symbol and the secret of perfection, and the revealer of the bounties of the All-glorious.

"Consider the flowers of the garden; though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty."

Humanity is now coming of age. It is this that makes possible the unification of the human family and the building of a peaceful, global society.

The other principles that promote unity as vital to the achievement of these goals are:

Assurance to women of full equality of opportunity with men;

Recognition of the unity and relativity of religious truth;

The elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth;

The realization of universal education;

The responsibility of each person to independently search for truth;

The establishment of a global commonwealth of nations;

Recognition that true religion is in harmony with reason and the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

Paul Gray is a member of Bahai Faith. Sunday devotions at the Ridgeway Bahai Center on Knight Drive in Ridgeway are at 11 a.m. Children's class is at 11:30 a.m.

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