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Baha'I Faith Seeks Unity To Fight Evil

Regardless of our own faith traditions, we can learn a thing or two from Baha'u'llah, founder of the Baha'i faith.

He wrote that if a rogue nation commits injustices, then the nations of the world should rise up and obliterate that government.

"Arise, O people, and by the power of God's might, resolve to gain the victory over your own selves," he wrote.

In other words, he was calling for worldwide unity against terrorism.

It's strange sometimes how life works. America is being terrorized by religious fundamentalists, who claim they're dispensing justice on behalf of God. But their horrible acts of murder and psychological torture are uniting the world.

Baha'is believe what's happening now fulfills prophecy. They say Baha'u'llah foretold this spirit of unity and predicted that a coalition of just nations will crush the hand of the oppressor.

"Whatever the wise and reflective leaders of the world decide must be done, we need to be united and give them support," said David Hoffman, a local Baha'i.

Hoffman and his wife, Homeria, are among dozens of Baha'is living in Guilford County. Tonight, they'll host a Baha'i "public fireside meeting" at their lakefront home off N.C. 150 near Summerfield.

Gary Matthews, a Baha'i author and lecturer from Knoxville, will speak on "Building the Kingdom: Christ and Baha'u'llah."

The Baha'i religion originated in Iran in the 1840s. It was founded by the Persian prophet Baba Allah, who proclaimed the need for unifying all faiths, making all people equal and creating world peace. The faith arose from a Persian Islamic sect, but Baha'i is considered a religion in its own right instead of an offshoot of Islam.

There are an estimated 5 million Baha'is in the world, 145,000 of them in America.

Baha'is can speak with authority on the dark side of Islamic extremism. In Iran, home of Homeria Hoffman's family, Shiite fundamentalists sought to suppress the Baha'i faith from its inception - even slaughtering some practitioners. About 20,000 Iranian Baha'is were killed the first decade after the religion was founded, she said.

Ayatollah Khomeini sought further suppression of the religion during his reign in the 1980s in part because the Baha'i insistence on gender equality and universal education contradicted the strict Shiite world view.

Hoffman, a third-generation Iranian Baha'i, said it was an issue of power. Suppressors want to hold onto it, and one way of doing so is to keep its people ignorant, she said.

It's hard not to draw parallels to the Taliban, another fundamentalist Islamic government that treats women inhumanely and refuses to educate girls.

For nearly 200 years, Baha'is have been urging people to unite against those forces that stop people from living free. The tragic events of the past weeks may have kicked into motion the world-wide coalition of Baha'u'llah's dreams, David Hoffman said.

"This is the day for collective unity, for justice," he said.

Contact Margaret Moffett Banks at 373-7031 or

©Copyright 2001, Greensboro News Record

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