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As a Baha’i I stand for the rights of all humans—including women.
The recent women’s marches around the world highlighted issues we all face around women’s rights and the rights of all human beings, and proved that they go much, much deeper than our politics.
I personally will not speak against my government or any elected official as a Baha’i, but this doesn’t mean that I will tolerate anyone’s views against the human rights, freedoms and liberty guaranteed by God or the Constitution of the United States. There is a difference between upholding human rights and speaking out against the government. Further, we can all make our views known by legally protesting, using non-violent resistance and demanding change—without speaking against our governments. We actually need a just global government to keep order and peace, along with just national governments as well. We would have complete chaos without the order governments provide.
But human rights issues go far beyond and deeper than any one person, any one politician or any single government, and there will always be those on both sides of the aisle who want to point fingers and direct anger towards one person or one politician, or against a particular group or segment of our society. The underlying issues we face have always been there. So how do we solve our problems?
We solve them, Baha’is believe, by doing everything we can to attain unity. As Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote, “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 286.
These wise words demand that unity come first, before we can make progress toward well-being, peace and justice. We as Baha’is strive to be unified and work with all people across all spectrums, and yes, even those with whom we may not agree. Our goal is always and continuously to look for common ground and a place to start the conversation with everyone.
Only through unity and the respectful, meaningful consultation that results can we work out our issues—even when we come to the table with polar opposite viewpoints. As we all go forward in this process together from every race and religion and culture, this is not to say our journey will be smooth, or that it will not be messy. In fact it could be pretty messy, because we have a lot to work through and it will take time. It can also be messy because not all people are willing to understand the dynamic that each of us actually prospers more individually when all people prosper collectively.
Baha’is work to build a just and equitable community, and hold unity as the guiding principle above all else. We will not resort to backbiting, name calling, disunity or violence because things might not be working out at the moment. Unity with all people—in the end, that’s what matters. Despite the current atmosphere, our societal issues are not about winning and losing, right or wrong, leader or follower. Instead, they’re really about unity and disunity.
Baha’is believe that a unified global society is not only achievable but inevitable. In fact, it is already happening before our eyes. Peace on earth is not only foretold in the Baha’i teachings, but in all major religions including many indigenous cultures around the world. This is what we work for as Baha’is—and honestly, I personally have to believe most people wish for it in the end. In one form or another, many, many people from all backgrounds around the world expend their energies working toward this ultimate reality.
So how do we all begin to build the unity the world so desperately needs?
The number one most important thing you can do now in any setting is look around you, be conscious of who is in the room, and be conscious of who is being heard—or more importantly, who is not being heard. Be conscious of those dynamics and pay attention. If you look around and your setting is homogeneous—if you only see people who look or think like you do—the first order of business is to ask why.
The second order of business is to try to change it.
Our problems, whatever they may be, will not be solved by surrounding ourselves with those who are the same. Whatever race, ethnicity, gender, religion or age you are, you need the input and perspectives of a diverse range of people sitting together and listening before you can reach any actual solutions. That’s why unity comes first. Until we intentionally allow all voices to be heard, and draw wisdom from each other, especially from those who have been most affected by pain, poverty and oppression, we will not know the depth of our issues or how to solve them.