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Unity in diversity

“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” Baha’u’llah Gleanings

In 1938, in his book The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, Shoghi Effendi, then head of the Baha’i Faith, said that “unity in diversity” was the “watchword” for the Baha’i Faith.

“Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Bahá’u’lláh. Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men’s hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided. It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other. Shoghi Effendi 1938

Its watchword is unity in diversity such as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself has explained:

“Consider the flowers of a garden. Though differing in kind, color, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all the flowers and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruit, the branches and the trees of that garden were all of the same shape and color! Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. In like manner, when divers shades of thought, temperament and character, are brought together under the power and influence of one central agency, the beauty and glory of human perfection will be revealed and made manifest. Naught but the celestial potency of the Word of God, which ruleth and transcendeth the realities of all things, is capable of harmonizing the divergent thoughts, sentiments, ideas and convictions of the children of men.”

The call of Bahá’u’lláh is primarily directed against all forms of provincialism, all insularities and prejudices. If long-cherished ideals and time-honored institutions, if certain social assumptions and religious formulae have ceased to promote the welfare of the generality of mankind, if they no longer minister to the needs of a continually evolving humanity, let them be swept away and relegated to the limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines. Why should these, in a world subject to the immutable law of change and decay, be exempt from the deterioration that must needs overtake every human institution? For legal standards, political and economic theories are solely designed to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, and not humanity to be crucified for the preservation of the integrity of any particular law or doctrine.Shoghi Effendi 1938

When Abdu’l-Baha travelled to North America in 1912 he gave many talks to diverse groups. He spoke often about the unity of mankind. These talks have been published under the title The Promulgation of Universal Peace.
In June 1912 he was invited to speak at the Unitarian Church where he spoke about the unity of mankind.

Human unity or solidarity may be likened to the body, whereas unity from the breaths of the Holy Spirit is the spirit animating the body. This is a perfect unity. It creates such a condition in mankind that each one will make sacrifices for the other, and the utmost desire will be to forfeit life and all that pertains to it in behalf of another’s good.

“The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. The eye that covers faults looks toward the Creator of souls. He created them, trains and provides for them, endows them with capacity and life, sight and hearing; therefore, they are the signs of His grandeur. You must love and be kind to everybody, care for the poor, protect the weak, heal the sick, teach and educate the ignorant.”(Abdu’l-Baha, “5 May 1912, Talk at Children’s Meeting, Hotel Plaza, Chicago, Illinois, Notes by Marzieh MossPromulgation of Universal Peace, p. 93)

The Baha’i International Community website introduces the Baha’i Faith by describing how

“Bahá’u’lláh taught that there is one God whose successive revelations of His will to humanity have been the chief civilizing force in history. The agents of this process have been the Divine Messengers whom people have seen chiefly as the founders of separate religious systems but whose common purpose has been to bring the human race to spiritual and moral maturity. Humanity is now coming of age. It is this that makes possible the unification of the human family and the building of a peaceful, global society.” BIS

According to the BIS

The Bahá’í community, comprising members of the Bahá’í Faith from all over the globe, now numbers some five million souls. They represent 2,112 ethnic and tribal groups and live in over 116,000 localities in 188 independent countries and 45 dependent territories or overseas departments. What was once regarded by some as an obscure, tiny sect is now recognized by the Encyclopedia Britannica as the second-most widely spread independent religion in the world, after Christianity. Its membership cuts across all boundaries of class and race, governing itself through the establishment of local and national elected bodies known as Spiritual Assemblies. Haifa, Israel, is the site of its international center and the seat of its world-governing council, known as the Universal House of Justice.

The worldwide Bahá’í community may well be the most diverse and widespread body of people on earth. It is also among the world’s most unified organizations, a feature that is perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic.

Bahá’ís the world over come from all religious backgrounds: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian, animist, and non-religious. Yet they study a common set of sacred writings, observe a unifying code of religious laws, and look to a single international administrative system for continuing guidance.

Their sense of unity goes beyond a shared theology. It is expressed in an abiding commitment to a global program for moral, spiritual and social progress that represents many of the finest ideals of civilization. BIC


Shoghi Effendi The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh
Author: Shoghi Effendi Source: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991 first pocket-size edition Pages: 206

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