Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

on tolerance

Among the many groups that have experienced the religious intolerance of Islamic fundamentalism, perhaps the Baha'is represent the "exemplar" case. The Baha'i Faith arose from Islamic roots, but differs significantly from many current Islamic beliefs. One way in which the Baha'i Faith differs from Islamic fundamentalism is a belief in religious tolerance. Another way in which the Baha'i Faith differs from Islamic fundamentalism is its belief in the equality of men and women. Fundamentalist Moslems do not consider Baha'is to practice a separate faith, but instead to be heretics to Islam. In Iran, practitioners of the Baha'i Faith have been imprisoned and executed merely for professing their faith. The Baha'i Faith insists that the seal of prophecy did not end with Mohammed, but instead considers that the "Mirrors of God" continue in an ongoing procession, with the latest being Baha'ullah. This viewpoint is anathema to the fundamentalist regime in Iran and to others of the fundamentalist Islamic movement. We have seen directly the persecution of people of this faith by those who profess another "exclusive" faith.

Although the Baha'i Faith is not pacifist, its perpetual call is for the unity of all peoples and nations. Baha'ullah wrote in the 19th Century that:

"All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization...To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion, and loving-kindness to all the peoples and all the kindreds of the earth".

On the eve of the first anniversary of the tragedy in New York an Washington, and some years down the road from a similar horror, often neglected in this country, perpetrated upon hundreds of Kenyans near the American Embassy in Kenya, I pray our world regains the process of carrying forward an ever-advancing civilization. I cannot claim, as much as I would like to do so, to be a pacifist in all situations. I supported this country's actions with regard to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Although I know of no reason to go to war again now, there may be another conflict in the future that is inevitable to fight. But tonight I am thinking of victims of terrorism in a building in New York and an Embassy in Africa and a field in Pennsylvania and a building in Washington. I am also thinking of men and women who showed immense compassion, mercy and loving-kindness to strangers, even at the cost of lives. I am suspicious of prime-time memorials. I am grateful, though, for people who cared and sacrificed, and sad for people needlessly lost. I am sorry when non-combatants are killed, in any conflict.

I am a naive, simple person. But I wish very much for a world
in which we move our civilization from internecine warfare, and into a future lived with dignity, under the eyes of God. I also pray for a time when people everywhere can believe or disbelieve without fear of persecution or punishment.

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