latest update: Friday, August 02, 2002 at 08:56 AM EDT
Baha'i community draws attention to religious prejudice
Concerned about the spread of religious prejudice, the Baha'i Community of St. Johns County has joined hundreds of others across the world to appeal to religious leaders to help overcome religious intolerance.
Focal point of the effort is the presentation of a letter by the world governing body of the Baha'i Faith. In its seven-page message, the Universal House of Justice asserts that religion constitutes the chief civilizing force of history and that its spiritual influence is needed for the advancement of humankind. It is not sufficient merely to appeal for religious tolerance. Instead, religions must accept the reality that they are equal in validity and that spiritual life is equally accessible to all of humanity. It warns about the danger that "the rising fires of religious prejudice will ignite a worldwide conflagration the consequences of which are unthinkable".
Hundreds of leaders in the U.S., representing a broad array of religious organizations and academic institutions, are receiving this historic challenge to renounce the notion of exclusive access to truth that has caused much violence and hatred. The list of recipients includes cardinals, bishops, ministers, rabbis, imams and others. The message will also be disseminated locally by the Baha'i Community of St. Johns County..
Just as the pernicious biases of gender, race, and nation began to give way over the course of the 20th century, religious prejudice must be urgently addressed if humankind is to achieve peace and security. All too often, organized religion has lent "credibility to fanaticism." Violent eruptions of such fanaticism "shame the name of religion." The letter goes on to state, "We feel a responsibility, as the governing council of one of the world religions, to urge earnest consideration of the challenge this poses for religious leadership."
The Baha'i Community applauds all local efforts to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding such as that by Rev. Gil Wilson of the Pilgrim Community Church in his sermon topic column which appeared in the July 12 edition of the St. Augustine Record. In that column he called for brotherly love and respect for the beliefs of others. His suggestion to form an interfaith council would allow us to address these issues and other issues facing our community.
On the web: www.bahai.org
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