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Bahá'u'lláh gave special attention to the problem of prejudice. At the heart of His message is a call for mutual understanding and fellowship among nations, cultures, and peoples. There is, Bahá'u'lláh insists, only one human race. Assertions that a particular group of people is in some way superior to the rest of humanity are without foundation. Prejudice — whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or class — is a baneful heritage that must be overcome if humanity is to create a peaceful and just global society.
Bahá'u'lláh specifically counselled His followers to make an active effort to rid themselves of all prejudices which breed contention and strife. In His primary ethical work, The Hidden Words, Bahá'u'lláh exhorts human beings to reflect on this question:
O CHILDREN OF MEN!
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 same 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.1
The very diversity of the human race is, in fact, a means for creating a world based on unity rather than uniformity. It is not by the suppression of differences that we will arrive at unity, but rather by an increased awareness of and respect for the intrinsic value of each separate culture, and indeed, of each individual. It is not diversity itself which is the cause of conflict, but rather our immature attitude towards it, our intolerance and misconceptions of others. 'Abdu'l-Bahá expresses this viewpoint in the following passage:
Should any one contend that true and enduring unity can in no wise be realized in this world, inasmuch as its people widely differ in their manners and habits, their tastes, their temperament and character, their thoughts and their views, to this we make reply that differences are of two kinds; the one is the cause of destruction, as exemplified by the spirit of contention and strife which animates mutually conflicting and antagonistic peoples and nations, whilst the other is the sign of diversity, the symbol and the secret of perfection, and the revealer of the bounties of the All-glorious.
Consider the flowers of the garden; though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty.
How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, the branches, and the trees of the garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of color, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas and convictions of the children of men.2
- Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1985), p. 20.
- 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Divine Art of Living (Wilmette: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1944), pp. 109-10.
* Adapted from Bahá'í Topics, an information resource produced by the Bahá'í International Community.