16. Celebrating Unity in Diversity
Lots of people, and even nations, get really aggravated when others don't see things in exactly the same way - their way. But if we truly hope to live as one peaceful global community we need to allow for diversity. I will have certain views and you will have others. And that's ok.
Diversity is good. Imagine a garden where all the flowers were the same colour. Or, if you're no gardener, a wardrobe where all your dresses and accessories were identical. Or, to be fully gender-neutral, trying to find your car in a parking lot where all the cars were the same.
But it is also a big challenge. When you're a small animal in a world of big voracious ones, it's important to be able to quickly distinguish MY species (where 'us' equals 'friend') from THEIR species (who may plan to put 'us' on the menu). Such primitive drives - 'us' and 'them' - are pretty much what still motivate a lot of people today.
There is a lot of hate and ignorance festering behind their intentions. But ignorance is curable. It is overcome by education, by knowledge that leads to association, familiarity and eventually kinship, when we realise that - both genetically and spiritually - we are one family.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of NZ, popularised the phrase "They are Us" in responding to the deadly terrorist attack on a Mosque in Christchurch. It gradually became a part of the national - and eventually, international – lexicon. It was soon reinforced by the killing of innocent black man George Floyd, which swiftly provoked a new level of reaction and outrage centred around the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.
These actions demonstrate the depth of feeling around racism and religious prejudice but we need more than passionate reaction. We need real answers; solutions leading to enduring change in the way that people think, believe and act. This change can only take place through education. This is the role of true education; to foster mutual love that leads to change and unites hearts.
Over a century ago Abdu'l-Baha described the need for the teachings of Baha'u'llah to address all racial, religious, and national antipathies and rivalries;
That universal Manifestation will subdue the world through a spiritual power, not through war and strife. He will array the world with peace and harmony, not with swords and spears. He will establish this divine sovereignty through genuine love, not through military might. He will promote these divine teachings through kindness and amity, not through violence and arms. Even though these nations and peoples are, in view of the divergence of their conditions, the disparity of their customs and characters, and the diversity of their religions and races, even as the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, and the sucking child and the asp, He will so educate them that they will embrace, consort with, and confide in each other. Racial antipathy, religious animosity, and national rivalries will be entirely effaced, and all will attain perfect fellowship and complete harmony under the shade of the Blessed Tree. --- Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions.
This is our challenge today; to engage in a process of collective consultation and education that will address and overcome racial antipathy, religious animosity, and national rivalries. We must educate both ourselves and others, that differences and animosities due to racial, religious and national diversity may end.
The increased maturity of humanity enables us to recognise that our diversity is actually a valued source of enrichment. Ongoing practice of the 'art' of mutual consultation supports the development of skills and capacity necessary to unify our diverse views and skills. Understanding and collaborating with others enables us to perceive the reality of things; not from one single viewpoint but with the compound vision enabled by many perspectives.
"Unity, in its Bahá’í expression, contains the essential concept of diversity, distinguishing it from uniformity. It is through love for all people, and by subordinating lesser loyalties to the best interests of humankind, that the unity of the world can be realized and the infinite expressions of human diversity find their highest fulfilment." --Universal House of Justice to the Baha'is of the world. 18 January 2019.