…among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is that religious, racial, political, economic and patriotic prejudices destroy the edifice of humanity. As long as these prejudices prevail, the world of humanity will have no rest. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 29.

Baha’u’llah declares that all forms of prejudice among mankind must be abandoned and that until existing prejudices are entirely removed, the world of humanity will not and cannot attain peace, prosperity and composure. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 434.

Today, March 21, marks the U.N.’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and the beginning of the official Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling Against Racism and Racial Discrimination (3/21-3/27).

UN-BadgePerhaps today would be a good day for each one of us to ask ourselves an important question: Am I a human rights defender?

The world’s greatest and most-loved individuals have all defended the human rights of others. They recognized the common humanity of the world’s people, regardless of their color or class, and called upon us to love them equally and without bigotry.

The human rights defenders we revere the most—people like Gandhi, King, Mother Teresa—recognized and fought for the essential oneness of humanity. The founders of the world’s great Faiths—Buddha, Krishna, Christ, Moses, Muhammad and Baha’u’llah—all taught love and harmony between races and nations. They emphasized, through their actions and their teachings, that racial prejudice and discrimination demeans us all, including the victims and the victimizers. They defended the oppressed and the downtrodden, asking everyone to look beyond skin color and into the heart and soul of each individual human being. They pointed out how the powerful have used racism to divide and conquer entire peoples and nations, using hatred to pit one group against another. Ultimately, they challenged all of us to realize our commonality and human solidarity, and to stand up to defend others.

These inspiring role models all had one central goal: unity. They defended the human rights of others so we could all come together and rid ourselves of the old vestiges of suspicion, separation, racial prejudice and hatred.

So give it some thought for a minute: when was the last time you defended someone else’s human rights?

Your own human rights, for the sake of this discussion, don’t really count. Most people willingly and readily speak out in defense of the group they belong to, whether racial, political, economic, national or religious. We can all be counted on to defend our particular group, the one we already belong to, represent and understand.

The harder and nobler course of action involves speaking up and defending the human rights of someone else’s group.

That’s what the Baha’i teachings, and the U.N.’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ask us to do:

Close your eyes to racial differences and welcome all with the light of Oneness. Be the cause of comfort and promotion of humanity. This handful of dust, the world, is one home; let it be in unity. Forsake pride, it is the cause of discord. Follow that which tends to harmony. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 1, p. 23.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an opportunity to renew our commitment to building a world of justice and equality where xenophobia and bigotry do not exist. We must learn the lessons of history and acknowledge the profound damage caused by racial discrimination. – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

You can consider ways to defend the human rights of others and help eliminate the scourge of racism by visiting the U.N.’s site.

After you’ve looked over the main U.N. site on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, visit this page and try taking the quiz on human rights and discrimination, where you can test your knowledge about the human rights defenders who have struggled and fought for the rights of others.

After you’ve thought about the important content of these websites, you may want to think about your own role in the ongoing struggle to eradicate racism.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

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