Two fundamental principles of the Baha’i Faith seem vitally important to write about this week: the oneness of humanity and the elimination of all forms of prejudice.
This principle of unity and oneness is the pivot round which all the Baha’i teachings revolve. In a talk given about the dangers of prejudice, Baha’u’llah’s son said, “And among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is that religious, racial, political, economic and patriotic prejudices destroy the edifice of humanity. As long as these prejudices prevail, the world of humanity will have no rest.”
What does it mean to be prejudiced? At the root, it means to pre-judge—to judge without knowing. This is why we can say prejudice stems from ignorance. A reminder from the dictionary offers this:
1. An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts; a preconceived preference or idea; bias.
2. Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race or religion.
“Oneness” does not to suggest sameness. Nature is a perfect example of unity and diversity often cited by Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i faith — the beauty of the flowers of the garden, the delight of the different fruit on the trees, the various vegetables — each having their own color, shape, fragrance, texture, qualities and flavors. Music is another great illustration also cited: “The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord.”
While it is lovely and inspiring to read the Baha’i Holy Writings that refer to gardens, flowers and music to help us understand the concept of unity and diversity, Baha’is are also called upon to actively dedicate themselves to the work of overcoming racism. One of the central figures of the faith writing in the 1930s made it very clear:
“Let there be no mistake. The principle of the oneness of humanity is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. Its appeal is not to be merely identified with an awakening of the spirit of brotherhood and good-will, nor does it aim solely at the fostering of harmonious cooperation among individual peoples and nations. Its implications are deeper, its claims greater than any which the Prophets of old were allowed to advance. Its message is applicable not only to the individual, but concerns itself primarily with the nature of those essential relationships that must bind all the states and nations as members of one human family ... It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced.”
In another letter addressed to the Baha’is in the early 1900s it was written: “As to racial prejudice, the corrosion of which, for well-nigh a century, has bitten into the fiber, and attacked the whole social structure of American society, it should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the community.” He emphasized that addressing this problem calls for ceaseless exertions, sacrifices, care, vigilance, moral courage, fortitude, tact and sympathy.
The Baha’i International body issued a statement called “The Promise of World Peace” in 1985 where they identified racism as an obstacle to world peace, saying: “Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier to peace. Its practice perpetrates too outrageous a violation of the dignity of human beings to be countenanced under any pretext.”
In 1991, the Baha’i National body issued a statement called “A Vision of Race Unity” and continues to focus on the imperative to dismantle racism and build models of unity. Anyone who would like an electronic copy of “A Vision of Race Unity” can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a good time to remember Baha’u’llah’s words, “Ye are all leaves of one tree and the fruits of one branch.”