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25. The Clash of Differing Opinions

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

So many of us share the dream of our human family living together as one. We write about it. Some of our most beautiful poems eulogise it. Many of our most beautiful and inspiring songs express it. And some of our most stirring speeches describe it - like Martin Luther King's famous 'I Have a Dream' speech.

But not our national anthems. Most national anthems are celebrations of uniqueness and - dare I say it - superiority. So the dreaming of unity and the singing and talking about it are the easy parts. How do we go about achieving it? Today we've moved beyond that stage of dreaming - now we're at the pointed edge; the doing stage. And we find that it's the doing it and living it day by day that brings the real challenges.

One of the greatest of these is our sheer differences. Many are readily apparent; our skin colour, our language, our dress. Others are more individualised yet extremely fundamental, like our values. Each culture has its own unique beliefs about collective values and social behaviours. Some are apparently minor; like how to greet one another. Others are less readily explainable, like our ceremonies surrounding birth, death and marriage. Often these are the outcome of generational practices.

You have your own spiritual and cultural principles and practices. I have mine. To what extent do we need to agree on these important subjects, or is there some way to live together that accepts these differences without disharmony?

One only has to follow a typical news programme to see how deeply ingrained is the clash of political and cultural opinion.

It is a fundamental principle of the Bahai Teachings that we should not speak even a word of politics. It is a principle that has held true within our community during such dire eras as those of Nazism, Fascism, Communism, and the like.

It is one that we hold closely today as we observe aspects such as the reversal of previous advances in environmental matters and global trade, concerns around equity and civility in immigration practices, in politically sanctioned behaviour toward women and minorities etc. It is one that we have held true in the past and cling to with today and tomorrow in mind, during situations that we could not even have imagined in previous times.

How pathetic indeed are the efforts of those leaders of human institutions who, in utter disregard of the spirit of the age, are striving to adjust national processes, suited to the ancient days of self-contained nations, to an age to an age which must either achieve the unity of the world, as adumbrated by Bahá’u’lláh, or perish. At so critical an hour in the history of civilization it behooves the leaders of all the nations of the world, great and small, whether in the East or in the West, whether victors or vanquished, to give heed to the clarion call of Bahá’u’lláh and, thoroughly imbued with a sense of world solidarity, the sine quâ non of loyalty to His Cause, arise manfully to carry out in its entirety the one remedial scheme He, the Divine Physician, has prescribed for an ailing humanity. ---Shoghi Effendi / The Guiding Principles of World Order

Bahá’ís proclaim that the most important condition that can bring about peace is unity—the unity of families, of nations, and of the great currents of thought and inquiry that we denote science and religion. - UHJ 19 Oct 93 to an indiv

Every nation and every group—indeed, every individual—will, to a greater or lesser degree, contribute to the emergence of the world civilization towards which humanity is irresistibly moving. Unity will progressively be achieved, as foreshadowed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in different realms of social existence, for instance, “unity in the political realm”, “unity of thought in world undertakings”, “unity of races” and the “unity of nations”. As these come to be realized, the structures of a politically united world, which respects the full diversity of culture and provides channels for the expression of dignity and honour, will gradually take shape. - 2 Mar 2013 UHJ to Bahais of Iran

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