“When I went to the University of Pennsylvania, I went with a real deep interest in the world’s religions,” says Michael Penn, a Baha'i living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
After studying Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, he said to his professor, “Whenever I read the works of these great messengers, I hear essentially the same voice.” And his professor replied, “I think you are reading these prophets too superficially. You have to read more deeply, and then you will be able to perceive the vast differences between them.”
But the more Michael read, the more similarities he saw. Because Baha’is believe in the unity and truth of all religions, Michael’s growing belief in the oneness of all these prophets caught the attention of a fellow student who happened to be a Baha’i.
Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, wrote, “All the teaching of the Prophets is one; one faith; one Divine light shining throughout the world. Now, under the banner of the oneness of humanity all people of all creeds should turn away from prejudice and become friends and believers in all the Prophets.”
One day while Michael was sitting in one of the lounges on campus, he struck up a conversation with a man who happened to be a Baha’i. Michael recalls how the man said, “I think you would be interested in the Baha’i teachings, given your profound interest in religions.” And he invited Michael to a fireside — an informal gathering to discuss the teachings of the Baha’i Faith.
In this video clip from The Race Unity Project, Michael discusses how uniquely diverse and spiritual that gathering was and recalls its impact on him.
Produced by Journalism for Change, Inc, a nonprofit media organization founded by filmmaker and human rights activist Maziar Bahari, “The Race Unity Project” tells “the century-long story of the American Baha’i community and its efforts — as well as its tests and challenges — in promoting race unity.” Videos from “The Race Unity Project” include candid conversations with Baha’is about various topics — including how meaningful conversations can help us bridge racial divides and how to stay hopeful despite the racism that permeates society.
Watch as Michael shares the mystical experiences he had and discusses how the Baha’i writings deeply touched his heart.
Radiance Talley is the director of operations at BahaiTeachings.org. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in communication, a College Park Scholars Arts Citation, and a cognate in journalism. In addition to her writing, drawing, presentation, and public speaking experience, Radiance also...READ MORE