Bahai News - Statement to the United Nations Sub-Commission
Statement to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention
of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
The Bahá'í International Community has long shared the belief
expressed by Mr. Angelo Vidal d'Almeida Ribeiro, the Special Rapporteur
on Religious Intolerance, in his report to the Commission on Human Rights,
that a more determined effort should be made at all levels to combat
attitudes of discrimination or intolerance, especially when they have deep
historic and cultural roots. The creation of a climate of religious
tolerance is a challenge that faces religious leaders, educators, the media,
and government officials especially.
Many believers find it difficult to reconcile deep religious conviction
with tolerance of other beliefs. It is tempting to insist that one has
discovered the one and only truth and to relegate the remaining masses of
humanity, adhering to other beliefs, to the status of apostates or
unbelievers, spiritually doomed, deserving pity at best, or outright
ridicule and persecution at worst. Throughout history too many sincere
people in every part of the world have fallen victim to this thinking.
In the Bahá'í view, such attitudes are, in part, the product of
ignorance. If other religions are shrouded in mystery, then they become an
empty vessel into which the individual is tempted to pour fears and
fantasies. Experience shows that ignorance breeds superstition and
perpetuates religious prejudice and animosity.
The effectiveness of any individual grows as he is taught to appreciate
through the exercise of his own faculties, the way in which diversity
of faith enriches social life. Bahá'u'lláh urges the right of the
individual to freely investigate truth for himself as a principle essential
to the advancement of civilization. In order to exercise this capacity
fully, however, one must be able to read. One great value of literacy,
therefore, is the access it gives ordinary people to the scriptures of
their own faith as well as to the sacred texts of other faiths.
The most powerful remedy for religious superstition and contention
is an examination of the original teachings of the founders of the world's
great faiths. No student of comparative religion can fail to be struck by
the extraordinary degree of harmony to be found in these original
scriptures. Certainly, a fair-minded examination of these principal
sources for the civilizing of human nature will reveal nothing to support
the animosities that pit one religious community against another.
Lamentably, some sectarian leaders discourage investigation of other
beliefs and even dissuade their followers from fully investigating the
truth of their own religious teachings. Such attitudes foster prejudice,
and lead, all too often, to violent attacks on believers of other faiths.
Indeed, one of the strangest and saddest features of the current outbreak
of religious fanaticism is the extent to which, in each case, it is
undermining not only the spiritual values which are conducive to the unity
of mankind but also those unique moral victories won by the particular
religion it purports to serve.
Bahá'u'lláh taught that the primary purpose of religion
is to "establish unity and concord amongst the people of
the world." Governments, NGOs, and citizens' groups who are
struggling to mobilize a common response to the various crises
afflicting our world have the right to expect from religious leadership
a similar willingness to sacrifice dogmas and sectarian interests
that inhibit the mobilization of humanity's spiritual resources.
Therefore, the Bahá'í International Community joins
Mr. Ribeiro in his call for efforts to promote greater understanding
amongst all people, particularly through inter-faith dialogues
and through systematic efforts by the Centre for Human Rights
to disseminate the principles of the 1981 Declaration through
the media and to urge their inclusion in the curriculum of schools
The Bahá'í International Community is confident
-- because of its experience in bringing together in harmony members
of nearly every religion and culture on earth -- that even deeply
rooted religious prejudices melt away in an environment of humility,
compassion, and an earnest search for truth.
©Copyright 1993, The Bahá'í International Community United
Page last updated/revised 060300
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