A spiritual problem with spiritual solutions
Published July 5, 1997
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if all prejudices and the barriers to the unity were finally gone?
Wouldn't it be a wonderful place for all people to live?
Prejudice is a strong emotional attachment to an idea, regardless of whether it's reasonable. A common form of prejudice occurs when a person strongly identifies with some group to which he belongs and which he regards as superior to other groups. He maintains a negative image of all people outside his group, with no regard for individual qualities.
Group prejudices can be based on racial, economic, social, linguistic or other criteria. The hatred created by prejudice often leads to social unrest, war and even genocide. Baha'u'llah counseled humankind to make an active effort to rid itself of all prejudices and superstitions about human nature.
Whether they be racial, religious, cultural or national, prejudices hold us back from realizing our potential as a global society. We see the effects of this man-made "disease" every day when wars are fought, when societies are held back in many ways, when one person isn't given the same consideration as another.
Why does prejudice continue? It is perpetuated through ignorance. No one is born with prejudices. They are learned and inherited from family and society, through words and actions.
Prejudice is a spiritual disease and requires a spiritual solution.
With regard to racial prejudice, the Universal House of Justice, in a statement titled The Promise of World Peace, says: "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.
Racism retards the unfoldment of the boundless potentialities of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress. " More than 100 years ago, Baha'u'llah (The Glory of God) wrote: "Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest." He also wrote: "All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization . The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth." The oneness of humanity is a spiritual truth abundantly confirmed by science. Recognition of this truth compels the abandonment of all prejudices of race, color, creed, nation and class, of "everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others." The principle of the oneness of humankind "is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. ... It does not constitute merely the enunciation of an ideal. ... It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced." How can every one of us be part of the solution to this problem?
The first thing we can do to overcome prejudices is to realize that we have them in one form or another. Then we should be very careful in our speech and action not to pass prejudice to the next generation.
Many prejudices begin through misinformation and the lack of knowledge. To unlearn the prejudices that family and society have taught us, we should be more open-minded and educate ourselves about other countries, cultures and religions. We should get to know all kinds of people. By trying to see things from another point of view we can broaden our own. We should also think thoughts of love and peace toward all people.
According to the Baha'i writings: "Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain! Nothing is impossible to the divine benevolence of God. If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger until it reaches the minds of all men."
Kambiz Rafraf is chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai's of Dallas.
©Copyright 1997, The Dallas Morning News