The prophets and founders of all revealed religions have told us repeatedly that living in unity with our fellow beings is a hallmark of faith.
In the last two paragraphs of Part I of its statement on The Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States wrote:
For too much of its history and in so many places the human race has squandered its energy and resources in futile efforts to prove the unprovable: that one portion of itself, because of separation by geography, a difference in skin color, or the diversity of cultural expression, is intrinsically distinct from another portion. The ignorance and prejudice on which such efforts are founded have led to endless conflicts in the name of the sanctity of tribe, race, class, nation, religion. Paradoxical as it may seem, in the consistency of these negative efforts across the spectrum of the race, humanity has proved the exact opposite: it has affirmed its oneness. The proof is in the fact that, given the same circumstances, all people, regardless of ethnic or cultural variety, behave essentially the same way. In the futility of its efforts to classify and separate its diverse elements, humanity has become disoriented and confused. Unaided by the divine influence of religion, people are incapable of achieving a proper orientation to their innermost reality and purpose and are thus unable to achieve a coherent vision of their destiny. It is in this respect that the Baha’is find relevancy, direction, and fulfillment in the teachings of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of their Faith.
The oneness of humanity is a spiritual truth abundantly confirmed by science. Recognition of this truth compels the abandonment of all prejudices of race, color, creed, nation, and class–of “everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others.” The principle of the oneness of humankind “is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope…. It does not constitute merely the enunciation of an ideal…. It implies and organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced.The Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue, 1991
From the Jewish ideal of treating the stranger as one of our own, to Christ’s appeal to care for even people whose differences we believe should cause us to despise them, to Muhammad’s insistence that we were put upon this earth in all our human diversity that we may know and not despise each other, to Baha’u’llah’s blunt assertion that “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens,” these founders of the world’s great Faiths have offered us the same essential message.
The organic oneness of humanity has been a religious principle for uncounted ages, warring incessantly with our human tribalism. In 1996, science confirmed the principle embodied in The Vision of Race Unity through the findings of the Human Genome Project. Since then, a number of other scientific studies have brought us closer to understanding the reality of human unity—indeed, of the underlying unity of all life.
Baha’is believe—and we are not alone in this—that humanity is reaching a tipping point. We are stepping out of the stormy, pimply, rebellious teenage years of our collective existence onto a path to adulthood. At last, as we comprehend the reality of the oneness of all people, our species puts on its big girl pants.
Let there be no mistake. The principle of the Oneness of Mankind—the pivot round which all the teachings of Baha’u’llah revolve —is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope. Its appeal is not to be merely identified with a reawakening of the spirit of brotherhood and good-will among men, nor does it aim solely at the fostering of harmonious cöoperation among individual peoples and nations. Its implications are deeper, its claims greater than any which the Prophets of old were allowed to advance. Its message is applicable not only to the individual, but concerns itself primarily with the nature of those essential relationships that must bind all the states and nations as members of one human family. It does not constitute merely the enunciation of an ideal, but stands inseparably associated with an institution adequate to embody its truth, demonstrate its validity, and perpetuate its influence. It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced. It constitutes a challenge, at once bold and universal, to outworn shibboleths of national creeds—creeds that have had their day and which must, in the ordinary course of events as shaped and controlled by Providence, give way to a new gospel, fundamentally different from, and infinitely superior to, what the world has already conceived. It calls for no less than the reconstruction and the demilitarization of the whole civilized world—a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units.
It represents the consummation of human evolution—an evolution that has had its earliest beginnings in the birth of family life, its subsequent development in the achievement of tribal solidarity, leading in turn to the constitution of the city-state, and expanding later into the institution of independent and sovereign nations.
The principle of the Oneness of Mankind, as proclaimed by Baha’u’llah, carries with it no more and no less than a solemn assertion that attainment to this final stage in this stupendous evolution is not only necessary but inevitable, that its realization is fast approaching, and that nothing short of a power that is born of God can succeed in establishing it.—Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 42-43.
Racial unity, then, is not just something that affects families, neighborhoods, communities, states, regions or even, ultimately, only the United States. It is part of a much larger global picture that we are now only dimly perceiving.
(This series originally appeared on Bahaiteachings.org.)