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Sects and the City

David Langness | Jul 9, 2014

PART 2 IN SERIES Iraq Syria and the Sectarian Divide

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Jul 9, 2014

PART 2 IN SERIES Iraq Syria and the Sectarian Divide

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

If thou be of the inmates of this city within the ocean of divine unity, thou wilt view all the Prophets and Messengers of God as one soul and one body, as one light and one spirit, in such wise that the first among them would be last and the last would be first. For they have all arisen to proclaim His Cause and have established the laws of divine wisdom. - Baha'u'llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 33.
The Baha’i Faith brings one overarching central principle to humanity: unity. Baha’is see all of the great founders and messengers of the world’s Faiths “as one light and one spirit.” Baha’is actively work toward the unity of all races, all peoples and all religions. Baha’is affirm that we all inhabit the same Earth; come from the same gene pool and worship the same Creator. Baha’is believe that one God gives one humanity one continuous religious system throughout history. To symbolize that beautiful vision of human beings living in harmony, the Baha’i writings often use the metaphor of “the city” to represent the unity of people and of religion itself:
The attainment of this City quencheth thirst without water, and kindleth the love of God without fire. Within every blade of grass are enshrined the mysteries of an inscrutable wisdom, and upon every rose-bush a myriad nightingales pour out, in blissful rapture, their melody… Once in about a thousand years shall this City be renewed and re-adorned… That city is none other than the Word of God revealed in every age and dispensation. - Baha'u'llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 197-198.
[caption id="attachment_21091" align="alignnone" width="872"]Map showing concentrations of Musllim sects Map showing concentrations of Musllim sects[/caption] So the Baha’i Faith, as you might suspect, does not believe in or practice or support any “sectarian divide.” Just as actual cities need unity and harmony in order to function properly, Baha’is understand that the City of God must retain its integrity and unity to create a spiritual impact in our souls. In fact, Baha’is try hard to end those sectarian divides and unify the contending sects and religions:
Consider how discord and dissension have prevailed in this great human family for thousands of years. Its members have ever been engaged in war and bloodshed. Up to the present time in history the world of humanity has neither attained nor enjoyed any measure of peace, owing to incessant conditions of hostility and strife. History is a continuous and consecutive record of warfare brought about by religious, sectarian, racial, patriotic and political causes. The world of humanity has found no rest. Mankind has always been in conflict, engaged in destroying the foundations, pillaging the properties and possessing the lands and territory of each other, especially in the earlier periods of savagery and barbarism where whole races and peoples were carried away captive by their conquerors. Who shall measure or estimate the tremendous destruction of human life resulting from this hostility and strife? What human powers and forces have been employed in the prosecution of war and applied to inhuman purposes of battle and bloodshed? In this most radiant century it has become necessary to divert these energies and utilize them in other directions, to seek the new path of fellowship and unity, to unlearn the science of war and devote supreme human forces to the blessed arts of peace. After long trial and experience we are convinced of the harmful and satanic outcomes of dissension; now we must seek after means by which the benefits of agreement and concord may be enjoyed. When such means are found, we must give them a trial. Consider the harmful effect of discord and dissension in a family; then reflect upon the favors and blessings which descend upon that family when unity exists among its various members. What incalculable benefits and blessings would descend upon the great human family if unity and brotherhood were established! In this century when the beneficent results of unity and the ill effects of discord are so clearly apparent, the means for the attainment and accomplishment of human fellowship have appeared in the world. Baha'u'llah has proclaimed and provided the way by which hostility and dissension may be removed from the human world. - Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 229-230.
Baha’is believe in the unity of all religions—but Baha’is also acknowledge that religion eventually decays, becomes corrupt and requires renewal. The Baha’i teachings say this process occurs over the course of centuries. Each of the world’s great Faiths rose to its zenith of spiritual influence and pervasive power, and then gradually decayed, becoming less spiritual and more material. At that point, another Messenger appeared and the sequential cycle of progressive revelation continued. This unique way of conceptualizing the organic evolution of belief, which makes the confusing multitude of contending religions and sects clearly understandable, offers a new, rational and non-exclusionary framework for faith. It allows people from every belief system to validate their love for their ancestral faith and incorporate it into a new, progressive structure that renounces no other person or belief. It rejects otherness; gathers together rather than separates; and unifies rather than divides. From a Baha’i perspective, the tragedy of any and all sectarian divides comes from the old, corrupted forms of religion. None of God’s divine messengers, the Baha’i writings say, would countenance such division and disunity, such internecine warfare and hatred.

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  • Jul 10, 2014
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    Wonderful!! Again, I'm going to forward it to a seeker because you create such a link between you and your reader and for a seeker, I think that's important. Thank you, David.
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