Unity In Diversity And Personal Transformation
The watchword of the Baha’i Faith, founded by Baha’u’llah (1817-1892) is “unity in diversity.” Typically Baha’i communities around the world consist of people with whom we would not normally associate.
Working with people who are different from us forces us to confront our prejudices. Baha’u’llah declared that mankind is ONE race — the Human Race, and prejudices of all kinds — national, political, racial, gender, cultural, class, economic, religious, educational, tribal, you name it — cannot be tolerated and must be totally eliminated.
Before I became a Baha’i in 1967 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, I was Jewish. After I became a Baha’i, I discovered to my horror that one of the Lawrence Baha’is was a former American Nazi. HOLY MOLY!!!
Before Bill became a Baha’i, he was kicked out of his college history class for standing up and boldly proclaiming Poland invaded Germany, which of course contradicts history.
Bill went through a personal transformation after he became a Baha’i. He welcomed me and hugged me tightly. He was very warm and friendly to me and treated me like a long lost friend.
But as you can imagine, I was having a cow!!! How in the world could I even think about associating with such a man, let alone trying to work together with him in love, unity, and harmony??? It was unthinkable!!!
I realized I had four options: withdraw from the Baha’i Faith; remain a Baha’i but not attend any Baha’i events in Lawrence; move to another locality; force myself to associate with this man and eliminate my deep-seated prejudice.
I didn’t want to withdraw because I accepted and believed in the Divine authority of Baha’u’llah as God’s Messenger for today. I didn’t want to refrain from attending Baha’i events because they were very important to me and I liked the other Baha’is. I didn’t want to move because I was attending the University of Kansas. So I chose to force myself to associate with Bill and work on eliminating my deep-seated prejudice.
This was not easy! It took much time, pain, and effort. I kept trying to focus on my love of God. I’m happy to tell you that eventually Bill and I became very best friends! To this day I love him with all my heart, though I haven’t seen him since I graduated from K.U. in 1971.
This is the power of the teachings of Baha’u’llah, whose Shrine is located in Bahji, Israel (across the bay from Haifa) to destroy walls that keep us apart and bring us together in love, unity, and harmony. Confronting and eliminating all our prejudices, no matter how difficult and painful, no matter how long it takes, is what is required for the peoples of the world to truly unite, appreciate our diversity, and establish a sustainable world peace.
Here are two quotations from the writings of the Baha’i Faith:
“…But there is need of a superior power to overcome human prejudices, a power which nothing in the world of mankind can withstand and which will overshadow the effect of all other forces at work in human conditions. That irresistible power is the love of God….”
“…universality is of God and all limitations earthly….”
Marty Schirn attended the University of Kansas where he received a B.A. in psychology and a B.S. in business. Raised as a Reform Jew, it was at KU that he discovered the Baha’i Faith and became a Baha’i on January 14, 1967. Marty later worked at the Chicago Tribune in the Classified Ad Department. He is now retired and resides in sunny Tucson, Arizona. He enjoys watching trains, listening to Beethoven, and eating chocolate.