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Religion Unites but Politics Divide

Photo of the Bahá'í Gardens in Haifa by Marco Abrar

Love and peace, or else by Mark Derewicz. I used to look at the world, see the troubles in Belfast and Kashmir and the Middle East and even here, and think that religion was a huge problem. It would be better to go without it. I still think this, as long as religion is the source of violence. But then I studied the religions, governments, and history, and I realized that anything so powerful in the hands of humans will have negative and positive consequences. Religion can inspire exclusionary thinking, disunity, and war. But it can also inspire inclusive love, compassion, extreme charity, and the great inspirational figures such as Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Rumi, the Dalai Lama, and Hillel.

Mark Derewicz is a writer in Chatham County, North Carolina.Mark Derewicz is a writer in Chatham County, North Carolina.Currently, in the United States and Europe, many Christians and secularists see an enemy in Islam. And, truly, how can a person who knows only of suicide bombers, terrorists, and Osama Bin Laden find redeeming qualities in the religion of these zealots?

Well, you can see Islam’s quality, its freshest fruits, in the poetry and lives of Hafiz and Rumi. You can see its quality in Muhammed’s teachings of compassion, brotherly love, and the godliness of material means when put to peaceful spiritual use. You can see its quality in the lives of millions of peace-loving Muslims the world over.

And so when pseudo-political religionists and Iranian authorities persecute my Baha’i brethren in Iran I know they are not representing Islam or its prophet. Nor are they doing God’s work. And I know they are not even true Muslims, considering that the word Muslim means “one who submits” and the word Islam means “peace.”

In Iran, today, Baha’is compose a religious minority who simply desire the right to live up to their name, which means “person of the light.”

And what is this light? It is the ethical and spiritual teachings of the age, which include gender equality, independent investigation of truth, the elimination of prejudice, the oneness of humankind, the harmony of science and religion, to name a few.

For people of a certain stripe, these principles are enough to make their eyes bleed. But there is another principle, in particular, that has caused the authorities in Iran to persecute Baha’is, jailing and torturing many of them. And this principle is the oneness of spiritual truth. That is, all religions and their eternal spiritual teachings come from the same source and provide a road map for human progress, if we choose to see it. And the Baha’i Faith is part of this map. For this, Baha’i holy sites in Iran have been desecrated and believers there are denied basic rights, are sometimes jailed and beaten, and even executed.

Yet, these Baha’is will never recant their faith. To do so would be to deny the fundamental truth that drives them – that spiritual and ethic teachings of all religions are essential parts of one divine system and that religion cannot be a source of divisiveness or violence. This is the unifying ideal that Baha’is and many others in so many religious and secular traditions are working toward. It is a truth whose time has come.

So though I wish my Baha’i friends here in Chapel Hill did not have relatives in Iran who are being persecuted, and though I wish they were with their families, I know they take solace in the fact that they are on the side of justice. Like true Jews and Christians and Muslims and all peoples who embody the purest spiritual teachings of their traditions, Baha’is are on the side of peace and unity. And no man or government can squelch such a truth.

Photo of the Bahá'í Gardens in Haifa by Marco Abrar.


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