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Have you ever been attacked for your deepest beliefs? How did you respond?
When an attack comes, our natural, instinctive human response normally prompts us to defend what we believe. The stronger our beliefs, the more likely we are to stand in defense of them. An attack on deeply-held beliefs can provoke outrage, anger and even violence.
So how do Baha’is defend their Faith when others attack it? What actions do Baha’is take when people slander and revile their religious beliefs or call their faith into question?
First, the Baha’i teachings say:
According to the direct and sacred command of God we are forbidden to utter slander, are commanded to show forth peace and amity, are exhorted to rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and harmony with all the kindreds and peoples of the world. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 7.
Baha’is, then, try not to respond to criticism or slander in kind. Baha’is don’t return insults, malign the characters of their attackers, or respond violently to attacks—even if the attacks themselves are violent. Instead, Baha’is humbly defend their Faith by calmly speaking or writing truth to power:
In correcting misrepresentations of the Faith made by those who are hostile to it, our obligation is to set forth Baha’u’llah’s teachings cogently and courteously, but firmly, supporting them with rational proofs. Once this has been done, the challenge rests with our hearers, whatever their interests or motivations, to consider our responses in this same spirit of courtesy and objectivity. For Baha’is to go further than this, by engaging in acrimonious debate, much less by reflecting on the character of others, would be to cross the line that separates legitimate defense of the Faith from contention. – The Universal House of Justice, 22 November 1999.
Second, Baha’is actually view attacks on their Faith as an opportunity to proclaim its healing message:
And I say unto you that no calumny is able to prevail against the Light of God; it can only result in causing it to be more universally recognized. If a cause were of no significance, who would take the trouble to work against it!
But always the greater the cause the more do enemies arise in larger and larger numbers to attempt its overthrow! The brighter the light the darker the shadow! Our part is to act in accordance with the teaching of Baha’u’llah in humility and firm steadfastness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 105.
As opposition to the Faith, from whatever source it may spring, whatever form it may assume, however violent its outbursts, is admittedly the motive-power that galvanizes, on the one hand, the souls of its valiant defenders, and taps for them, on the other, fresh springs of that Divine and inexhaustible Energy, we who are called upon to represent, defend and promote its interests, should, far from regarding any manifestation of hostility as an evidence of the weakening of the pillars of the Faith, acclaim it as both a God-sent gift and a God-sent opportunity which, if we remain undaunted, we can utilize for the furtherance of His Faith and the routing and complete elimination of its adversaries. – Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America 1932-1946, pp. 51-52.
Third, Baha’is try to recognize the fact that attacks against their Faith can only make it stronger in the long run. Actually, Baha’u’llah himself praised those who attacked his Faith, saying:
They are My heralds; they are the ones who are proclaiming My message and spreading My Word. Pray that they may be multiplied, pray that their number may increase and that they may cry out more loudly. The more they abuse Me by their words and the greater their agitation, the more potent and mighty will be the efficacy of the Cause of God, the more luminous the light of the Word and the greater the radiance of the divine Sun. And eventually the gloomy darkness of the outer world will disappear, and the light of reality will shine until the whole earth will be effulgent with its glory. – Baha’u’llah, quoted by Abdu’l-Baha in The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 436.
So Baha’is attempt to take a peaceful approach to any attacks against their beliefs, reasonably and logically explaining them to others, even when those others use hostility and slander:
Therefore, I say unto you, spread the Divine Truth with all your might that men’s intelligence may become enlightened; this is the best answer to those who slander. I do not wish to speak of those people nor to say anything ill of them—only to tell you that slander is of no importance! – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 105.
Slander, bitterness and persecution, the Baha’i teachings say, can actually create an inner radiance in the person who understands and accepts their ultimate effects:
All who stand up in the cause of God will be persecuted and misunderstood. It hath ever been so, and will ever be. Let neither enemy nor friend disturb your composure, destroy your happiness, deter your accomplishment. Rely wholly upon God. Then will persecution and slander make you the more radiant. The designs of your enemies will rebound upon them. They, not you, will suffer.
Oppression is the wind that doth fan the fire of the Love of God. Welcome persecution and bitterness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 88.
When people attack your beliefs, then, you can calmly and reasonably defend them verbally or in writing—but don’t get defensive or angry. Instead, take Baha’u’llah’s advice, and patiently wait for the light of reality to shine.