Bahais thrive on world diversity
Diele Davis says she is lucky to have her Bahai faith.
It exposes her two daughters to diversity. It encourages interracial marriage, an idea that she and her husband, Rob, exemplify.
"If you are interracially married, you won't want to go to war with a person from another race," Diele Davis said. "... You try to find common ground."
Finding that common ground is what the Bahai faith is all about.
Bahais believe mankind is one people and racial differences should be celebrated. Followers of the faith say man-made racial barriers are dividing people instead of uniting them.
The faith's founder, Baha'u'llah, started the independent religion in Persia, now Iran, in the mid-1800s.
Bahais accept the teachings of the world's religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. They believe each of the prophets had their respective time and Baha'u'llah is the most recent messenger.
Today, more than 5 million people worldwide follow the faith. Locally, there are approximately 400 Bahais in Miami-Dade and about the same number in Broward. Nationwide, there are some 142,000 Bahais.
The Bahai faith is the second most widespread religion in the world, said Ellen Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Bahai organization. Followers of the Bahai faith hope it's a haven for interracial couples, she said.
Rob Davis met his future wife, Diele, in Cameroon in 1986. They were married five years later.
"If I wasn't a Bahai, I don't think I would have been prone to date outside my race," said Davis, 34, of Sunrise.
It is unique for an organized religion to accept the teachings of other religions and science and not try to put their own philosophies first, said Chris Burnett, a professor at Nova Southeastern University.
"There are always some percentage of people who are more interested in drawing distinctions than in finding commonalities," said Burnett, who teaches on human relationships.
Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America, according to the group.
In dealing with prejudice, Bahais say they practice what they preach. Their faith makes them think before reacting.
The faith's teachings promote being patient, thinking differently and taking action, said Gil Grasselly, a federal translator who works in Miami.
"It makes you go out of your way," he said.
Grasselly, 63, of Hallandale Beach, is a white American married to an Indonesian woman.
Diele Davis, 31, said she and her husband try to teach their children the Bahai faith every day.
"When children are educated that mankind is equal, we won't have all the problems we have now," she said.
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