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Should you sit upon a cloud you would not see the boundary line between one country and another, nor the boundary stone between a farm and a farm. It is a pity you cannot sit upon a cloud. – Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam, p. 81.
What does Earth look like from space? We may not know firsthand, but we’ve probably seen a picture or two from satellite images. Or we can use our imaginations, like Kahlil Gibran did in his poem.
Reflecting on Gibran’s poem, what do you think about our man-made boundaries between countries and the wars occurring between them? If we can’t see any boundaries from the clouds, why do we have these ‘boundary lines’?
Sadly, our current world doesn’t only draw boundaries between countries. Boundaries also separate us when it comes to religion.
I grew up lucky. Because of the diversity of Faiths amongst my family members and friends, I encountered a plethora of varied religious activities, beliefs, and teachings. I became acquainted with not only Lutheran and Catholic belief systems, but also Baptist, Protestant, Jewish, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness, Baha’i, and…well, you get the idea. I wondered why all of these religions taught the same basic spiritual concepts, yet the followers failed to see their Faiths as different chapters in the same heavenly book.
During my childhood, I attended Baha’i children’s classes. They taught me about one God, Who created all of humanity, loved everyone equally, and sent prophets and messengers throughout history to guide us. I learned that this process of ongoing education from God, called progressive revelation, meant many core commonalities existed between all of the world’s religions. I learned that one God speaks to humanity progressively, providing guidance as humans need it.
In college, several years after I became a Baha’i, I took a world religions course. Again, the many similarities between the world’s great Faiths fascinated me–and reconfirmed my faith in Baha’u’llah’s teachings.
As Abdu’l-Baha said:
The Heavenly Books, the Bible, the Qur’an, and the other Holy Writings have been given by God as guides into the paths of Divine virtue, love, justice and peace. – Paris Talks, p. 61.
That truth of that quote by Abdu’l-Baha became more and more apparent as I studied the world’s religions. All of the world’s religions did, indeed, seem to teach the same essential message about love and peace. For example, I found the ‘Golden Rule’ echoed in every Faith tradition:
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
Love thy neighbor as thyself.
Do not to others what ye do not wish done to yourself; and wish for others too what ye desire and long for, for yourself.
…choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.
I also discovered that the world’s religions focused on unity and oneness. Here are just a couple of examples:
In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.
The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.
If, as the world’s Faith traditions have taught, our Earth is ‘but one country’, and there is no ‘east and west’, and if we all believe in the Golden Rule–then we’re really one big human family and followers of one unfolding religion.
So why aren’t we all getting along? Why are we killing each other, and why is the world so divided?
As wars, violence, and discrimination continue raging our globe, I suggest we challenge ourselves to end these meaningless disagreements and wars, and stop making these pointless distinctions and divisions. Our goal: find the similarities between us and work toward world unity.
How, you may ask, can we start this journey toward world unity?
The Baha’i teachings recommend independent investigation of the truth–and anyone can do it. You can start at the library, your local bookstore, your home computer, or your smartphone, and begin your investigation of the world’s religions by reading about the world’s great religious traditions: Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and the Baha’i Faith. Attend a church service; visit a temple, synagogue, or mosque; attend a Baha’i Fireside. Discover for yourself (and don’t just take my word for it) all the beautiful beliefs that we have in common.
In other words, try hypothetically sitting upon the clouds. Forget, even if it’s just for a moment, about the east and the west; this country and that country; my religion or your religion. I’m hopeful that your quest, like mine, will reveal the essential oneness amidst the diversity of our Faiths and countries, in order that we may make world unity a reality.
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