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I think I’ve always considered tears a luxury, taking me away from my intended trajectory. I rarely cry, but I want you to know that today I wept for you.
The story of your shocking death reached out beyond the headlines. However, I must admit that it was not unique in its injustice. Where the act took place, and the exact details, can rivet our attention. However, it must never divert us from acknowledging that the continued denial of the essential humanness of women plays out minute by minute, in various forms across human boundaries and in every country of the globe. Of course, this violence against women happens in some places more grotesquely than others, but it is always there, either blatantly or as a subtle undercurrent.
Whenever ancient prejudice and conviction, devoid of reason, predominates, it takes but a single lie, a marketplace mob, passive police and witnesses to break the thin thread one female’s life can hang by. In this case, it was your life. If you had been a male, would your repudiation of that lie have been heard, and your life spared? Or did the sure conviction that you lacked humanity, or any import to your family, community, culture, and country seal your fate?
We never met, separated by distance, culture and age, but when I read your story just shaking my head and feeling heartsick seemed not nearly enough. I thought of all the fathers and brothers, uncles and male relatives of women everywhere and hoped they wept too. I also had to ask myself–where were we on the day you died?
The only comfort I have is to think of the direction given to us by Baha’u’llah, who with a mighty stroke of His pen erased forever the foundation for the justification for what was done to you. His son, Abdu’l-Baha spoke on his behalf in 1912:
…there shall be perfect equality between men and women. Why should man create a distinction which God does not recognize? In the kingdoms below man sex exists, but the distinction between male and female is neither repressive nor restrictive. The mare, for instance, is as strong and often more speedy than the horse. Throughout the animal and vegetable kingdoms there is perfect equality between the sexes. In the kingdom of mankind this equality must likewise exist, and the one whose heart is purest, whose life and character are highest and nearest to the divine standard is most worthy and excellent in the sight of God. This is the one true and real distinction, be that one man or woman. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 434.
Ancient beliefs can and do slay reason and compassion. They can function as a noose hanging around the neck of innocence, waiting to tighten at a moment’s notice. They endanger us all, and bring no salvation to the perpetrators. However, as easy as it is to lay individual blame, all of us have a responsibility. When either sex accepts the idea that women are somehow inferior to men, we then participate in creating an environment in which injustice can take place. However, when spiritual truth finds its way, it can and does rebalance the scales of human justice. I grieve that it did not happen in time for you.
Each life has value, and by perpetuating the myth of inequality we prevent the whole of humanity from benefitting from the contribution of over half the population, and building the resources necessary for humanity to reach its full potential.
Baha’is have prayers to God for the departed, and I believe that those prayers will serve as a balm for your soul. Please also accept it as a plea that your sacrifice will bring a new awareness of who you were and still are. That it be a seed from which a new understanding can grow.
O God, my God! Thou hast committed into mine hands a trust from Thee, and hast now according to the good-pleasure of Thy Will called it back to Thyself… Thine handmaid, O my Lord, hath set her hopes on Thy grace and bounty. Grant that she may obtain that which will draw her nigh unto Thee, and will profit her in every world of Thine. Thou art the Forgiving, the All-Bountiful. There is none other God but Thee, the Ordainer, the Ancient of Days. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 133.
The inequality of women has no standing in spiritual reality. The only thing holding it in place is the human belief in its truth. We now have the capacity to understand a higher truth—the absolute equality of women and men–and act on it for the benefit of all.
Yes, today I wept for you. I also prayed for you, and then wept again for all of us.