In the face of growing racism and xenophobia, now is the time to focus on what unites us.
The Baha’i International Community (BIC) made this key point at a recent forum of European leaders in Warsaw, Poland, which took place from September 19-30, 2016.
For the second year in a row, the BIC participated in the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a platform for 57 States to meet with a number of other OSCE agencies and civil society actors committed to human rights and democracy.
Addressing the participants in a session on tolerance and non-discrimination, the Baha’i International Community’s Brussels Representative Rachel Bayani said, “One of the most pressing questions… is how people of diverse backgrounds are to live together… and how to counter discrimination, racism, and xenophobia.
“A lot of thinking and work goes into devising different strategies to counter specific forms of prejudice,” Bayani continued. “Of equal importance is the need to gain a much deeper understanding of what unites us.”
The BIC also commented that our readiness to articulate what constitutes our common humanity is what ultimately underlies our commitment to the elimination of prejudice.
In its comments, the BIC encouraged the OSCE to explore “how educational processes can help nurture in this generation and generations to come a rich, robust and expansive sense of common identity and develop amongst European populations a strong loyalty with and responsibility towards all of humanity, rather than only towards those sharing similar social, cultural, national, or physical characteristics.”
Baha’u’llah taught the Oneness of humanity; that is to say, all the children of men are under the mercy of the Great God. They are the sons of one God; they are trained by God. He has placed the crown of humanity on the head of every one of the servants of God. Therefore all nations and peoples must consider themselves brethren. They are all descendants from Adam. They are the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits of One Tree. They are pearls from one shell. But the children of men are in need of education and civilization, and they require to be polished, till they become bright and shining.
Man and woman both should be educated equally and equally regarded.
In the session on “Fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief,” the BIC contribution focused on coalition-building. In particular, it highlighted the growing tendency between a variety of social actors, whether religious or not, to speak up for each other and to build coalitions in order to promote freedom of religion and belief.
Echoing this sentiment, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, praised the movement toward partnership and collaboration between various groups, noting in particular partnerships between “minority” and “majority” groups.
“One sign of hope that was also alluded to in various speeches,” he commented, “is the collaboration that we have experienced and that we see now developing between different organizations.”