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I love unity.
I love unity so much that I’ve worked my whole life for it. I joined the civil rights movement at 14, marched and demonstrated, got beat up, spit on and jailed. At 18, after discovering the Baha’i Faith when I met other Baha’i civil rights activists also working for the unity of humanity, I found the teachings about unity I believed in, and I became a Baha’i. Because the global Baha’i community is so extremely varied across races, ethnicities and cultures, being a part of its wondrous diversity gave me the sense of unity I craved.
So when one of our sons brought home a group picture of his high school prom-going friends, my wife and I immediately looked at it and said “Wow—it’s like the U.N. of Prom!” The beautiful photo exemplified everything we had worked so hard for—kids of every color and national background and religion and culture, all happily smiling and having a great time together.
Our son got a quizzical, almost dismissive look on his face, and said “Hmm. I never noticed.” His expression made it pretty clear to both of us—we had entered the realm of the hopelessly clueless parental units by even seeing race or color.
At first, I’ll admit it, I felt slightly offended. But the more I thought about it, the more I saw it as progress.
Today, many years later, three out of our four kids have interracial or intercultural relationships (the fourth one’s still single). A generation or two ago, that would not have happened. No generation in human history has ever intermarried as much as this one. We have reached the point, in many (but not all) places in the world, where the content of your character does matter more than your complexion or your culture. The human race has truly made incredible progress, thanks to the hard work of millions of good people dedicated to love, unity and oneness, and to the spreading influence of the Baha’i teachings. In almost every society, the young have led the way, discarding the old dogmas of prejudice and racism and regarding all people as one.
Can you imagine what the world will be like in another decade or two? With that new generation in charge, and with the passing of the old generations that let differences become barriers, our little planet could experience an incredible future—one of peace, unity and human harmony.
This has become possible, Baha’is believe, because Baha’u’llah revealed a new divine message to us all:
The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 215-216.
Oh, sure, we’re all different. We each have our individual cultures, characteristics and quirks. But deep inside, we’re all human. We share that fundamental identity in our DNA, which makes us all related to every other person on Earth. That does not mean, according to the Baha’i teachings, that we are somehow the same. Instead, it means our differences and variations create a gorgeous garden:
Should any one object that, since the communities and nations and races and peoples of the world have different formalities, customs, tastes, temperaments, morals, varied thoughts, minds and opinions, it is therefore impossible for ideal unity to be made manifest and complete union among men to be realized, we say that differences are of two kinds: One leads to destruction, and that is like the difference between warring peoples and competing nations who destroy one another, uproot each other’s families, do away with rest and comfort and engage in bloodshed and rapacity. That is blameworthy. But the other difference consists in variation. This is perfection itself and the cause of the appearance of Divine bounty. Consider the flowers of the rose garden. Although they are of different kinds, various colours and diverse forms and appearances, yet as they drink from one water, are swayed by one breeze and grow by the warmth and light of one sun, this variation and this difference cause each to enhance the beauty and splendour of the others. The differences in manners, in customs, in habits, in thoughts, opinions and in temperaments is the cause of the adornment of the world of mankind. This is praiseworthy. Likewise this difference and this variation, like the difference and variation of the parts and members of the human body, are the cause of the appearance of beauty and perfection. As these different parts and members are under the control of the dominant spirit, and the spirit permeates all the organs and members and rules all the arteries and veins, this difference and this variation strengthen love and harmony and this multiplicity is the greatest aid to unity. If in a garden the flowers and fragrant herbs, the blossoms and fruits, the leaves, branches and trees are of one kind, of one form, of one colour and one arrangement, there is no beauty or sweetness, but when there is variety in the world of oneness, they will appear and be displayed in the most perfect glory, beauty, exaltation and perfection. Today nothing but the power of the Word of God which encompasses the realities of things can bring the thoughts, the minds, the hearts and the spirits under the shade of one Tree. He is the potent in all things, the vivifier of souls, the preserver and the controller of the world of mankind. Praise be to God, in this day the light of the Word of God has shone forth upon all regions, and from all sects, communities, nations, tribes, peoples, religions and denominations, souls have gathered under the shadow of the Word of Oneness and have in the most intimate fellowship united and harmonized! – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to the Hague, pp. 13-14.
Next: “Take Back the Country!” But Back to Where?