Updated: Mar 11
What is your race? Did you know that genetic science has clearly established that there is only one race; the Human race. An inspiring Maori song (waiata) of Oneness; 'Tutira mai', written in the 1950's by Christian Wiremu Te Tau Huata,could well be a Bahai Anthem, a World Anthem. Its words of unity have never more appropriate than after the terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
People have become increasingly worried about the future of our planet ever since this small Kiwi nation - rated one of the safest in the world, one of the most geographically isolated - experienced a terrorist event that shattered any illusion of safety. Even geographical isolation has been proven by the march of Covid to be no defence at all. No safety for us, nor our friends nor neighbours.
There is no safe haven anywhere.
The underlying causes of conflict in our world are not always immediately apparent. As many indigenous people know from bitter experience, one man's 'terrorism' is another man's 'lawful' use of force and violence in the name of 'liberation' and 'education'. Seen in this light, the history of most nations is one of terrorism.
While the Christchurch headlines dominated many 'white, eurocentric' news outlets, they overlooked the killing by “Nigerian Muslim militants” of 120 - 200 Christians three weeks previously. But to call these 'Christian/Muslim conflicts' distorts the true picture, which was essentially a conflict over natural resources and land usage. And we must expect ever more conflicts over limited resources as climate change bites harder.
But good things are also emerging and flourishing.
The threat of 'Islamophobia', of xenophobia and racism, has initiated new movements for intercultural and interreligious actions in Europe and increasingly within the world-wide Bahai community, supporting greater engagement through civic projects and interfaith dialogue, often in the context of youth projects.
Now more than ever we need to promote practical initiatives to bring communities together and overcome prejudice and marginalisation.
Within hours of the NZ attack a Kiwi spoke about the need for fellowship, and for actively working together for unity, saying "..It begins in our homes, our streets and neighbourhoods and radiates out. Arohanui (love)." Extending this concern to the global level, another Kiwi Baha'i commented "Oh let us be sad for all unjust killings. All over the world today people are dying because they choose to believe".
But other stories highlight a brighter face to global humanity. After a Christian church in Iraq was damaged during the two-year reign of ISIS extremists, local Muslims volunteered to help rebuild the Church, demonstrating "oneness' with their Christian brothers, assuring local Christians that “Mosul is yours as it’s ours” and “our differences are our strength”.
In February, the Swaminarayan Hindu Temple in Louisville USA, was broken into and vandalised. Within a few days, hundreds of people of all races, faiths and backgrounds helped renovate the temple, Hindus working side by side with Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and others. Rather than focusing on hate, people in Louisville focused on love and fellowship by helping one another.
That week Bahai friends in other parts of the world shared messages of condolence for the loss of Muslim lives; 'I am reaching out to all my family and friends in Christchurch to send my love and to let you know you are in my thoughts and prayers while you process this heartbreaking loss' and 'You may not know any of the victims personally, but I have no doubt you will be feeling horrified and shaken and will be grieving for the loss and injury of so many innocent people in your community'. Another Kiwi Bahai commented "Oh let us be sad for all unjust killings. All over the world today people are dying because they choose to believe".
The NZ Bahai National Spiritual Assembly wrote to the friends in Aotearoa NZ that "...already we can discern signs that this dark cloud is being lifted by the penetrating rays of light from love, solidarity, prayer, support, fellowship, and oneness emerging from acts of kindness, condolence and companionship by the people of this land, and indeed from around the world."
Responding to NZ's horror which was soon exacerbated by a retaliatory threat from ISIS, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern used language of empathy, not hate, sharing a message of togetherness by declaring 'they are us'.
And it is true; we are not "others" but brothers, children of the same God.
‘My hope is that through the zeal and ardour of the pure of heart, the darkness of hatred and difference will be entirely abolished, and the light of love and unity shall shine; this world shall become a new world; things material shall become the mirror of the divine; human hearts shall meet and embrace each other; the whole world become as a man’s native country and the different races be counted as one race.’ -- Abdu’l-Baha
As a Bahai I consider myself less a New Zealander but more inclusively a fellow member of one great Human Family. I cannot grieve for the loss of one soul yet not for another. Look at our planet from space; there are no divisions. Our borders are man-made and what has been parted can be made whole.
'It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens." --Bahá'u'lláh
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