THE BAHÁ'ÍS OF DERRY
STATEMENT ON RACISM AND PREJUDICE
This statement is made by the Spiritual Assembly as the elected governing body for the Bahá’í Faith in the district.
The United Nations World Conference Against Racism, taking place in Durban, South Africa from 31st August to 7th September 2001, should cause us all to look seriously at this problem and its deep implications. Racism is a pernicious and persistent evil, a major blight on human progress. The Bahá’í community opposes racism and xenophobia of any form and believes that the cancer of racial hatred can most effectively be countered by celebrating and promoting the fundamental oneness of humankind.
We believe that people must realise that racism is more than just colour prejudice. The experience of many people in these islands shows that racial prejudice can work against others simply because they come from another island, or from another part of the same island. Racism should also be seen as being of a kind with other deep-rooted prejudices such as those relating to religion and gender, and that while each needs attention none can be viewed in isolation.
What the world needs more than anything is the coming together of its peoples in a harmonious and creative whole. Advances in human knowledge have deepened bonds of interdependence and contracted the planet, and the central task now before all its inhabitants is to lay the foundations of a global society that can reflect the oneness of human nature. Creating such a universal culture of collaboration and conciliation will require a return to spiritual awareness and responsibility.
The unity that must underpin a peaceful and just social order is a unity that embraces and honours diversity. Oneness and diversity are complementary and inseparable. Diversity is what distinguishes unity from uniformity. Acceptance of the concept of unity in diversity, therefore, implies the development of a global consciousness, a sense of world citizenship, and a love for all of humanity. Everyone has to realize that, since the body of humankind is one and indivisible, each member of the human race is born into the world as a trust of the whole.
For too much of history, the evil of racism has violated human dignity. Its influence has retarded the development of its victims, corrupted its perpetrators and blighted human progress. Overcoming its devastating effects will thus require conscious, deliberate and sustained effort. Indeed, nothing short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility and prayerful reflection will succeed in effacing its pernicious stain from human affairs.
Clearly, the promotion of tolerance and mutual understanding among the diverse parts of the human race cannot be a passive exercise. All forms of provincialism, all insularities and prejudices must be confronted. The implementation of appropriate legal measures that safeguard the rights and opportunities of all and the adoption of educational initiatives that foster human solidarity and global citizenship should be among the first practical steps taken by all nations.
The moral leadership provided by religious communities must undoubtedly be a key component of any such effort. To ensure a constructive role for religion, however, the followers of all faiths must acknowledge the strife and suffering caused by those who have appropriated the symbols and instruments of religion for their own selfish purposes. Fanaticism and conflict poison the wells of tolerance and represent corrupt expressions of true religious values. The challenge facing all religious leaders is to contemplate, with hearts filled with the spirit of compassion and a desire for truth, the plight of humanity, and to ask themselves whether they cannot, in humility before their Almighty Creator, submerge their theological differences in a great spirit of mutual forbearance that will enable them to work together for the advancement of social justice and peace. It is possible both to believe in God and to be tolerant.
The path of unity and reconciliation is the only path available to the human family. A world in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united is not a utopian vision but an inevitable and vital necessity.
It is easy to be against something, particularly something as evil as racism, but that is not enough. One must be positive for change, for measures that will overcome the prejudices of the past and allow future generations to grow up free of them. The Baha’i community feels that its views and proposals give at least some positive ideas of a way forward.
August 2001 CE