Friday, December 31, 2010

Bridges of Understanding & the Power of Social Networking

Courtesy of
 It’s not often that a news feature grabs my attention the way this CBS Sunday Morning segment did -- for so many reasons. The 7-minute video is titled Finding a Religious Common Ground, and while not mentioning the Baha’i Faith at all, surely does speak the same language. It also challenges us, as we move into 2011, to consider what we will do with the days that are given to us in this coming year.

Consider the opening story. Three women who were not friends decided, after 9/11, to come together and learn from one another about the religions that seemed to divide them – Judasim, Christianity, Islam – an initiative that eventually grew far beyond themselves (see more in video). This individual grassroots intiative took courage, and speaks volumes about the power we hold in our own hands and hearts, a power that does not need to wait on outside direction.

“If the silent majority got active, and instead of talking about their religion, started doing what their religions tell them to do, they could change the world.” That from Karen Armstrong, reknowned religious historian.

And from E. Patel: “Cooperation is a value within every particular Faith tradition.” Patel is the founder of Chicago Interfaith Youth Corps, which promotes dialogue and action on 150 college campuses. Here is an interesting exchange:

Interviewer: “Why not just say giving back is important, volunteering is important? Why see it through a religious lens?”
Patel: “My religion of Islam inspires me to serve others. Poll after poll after poll shows that the United States . . . a huge number of its citizens are inspired to do good work for other people through their religions.”
Early in the piece Armstrong identified the Golden Rule* as a teaching of each major religion, which came around again in the wrap-up:
Interviewer: “Religion as a force for good – just as the Bible tells us, and the Koran, and the Torah. Just remember the Golden Rule.”
Armstrong: “Unless we learn to treat all peoples, all nations, as we would wish to be treated ourselves, we’re not going to have a viable world to hand on to our children and grandchildren.”
Permission of BIC - Baha'i Media

That is the truth, simple and real, a truth we ignore at our peril. Baha’is, too, not only believe that religion plays a crucial role in building a peaceful world, but are already at work on it – and most often hand in hand with our neighbors. The invitation to bring one’s own faith to devotional gatherings with Baha’is and friends from every Faith, or to engage in study and spiritual conversations that often lead to service, is both respectful and heart-felt. Together we are beginning to learn the practices and skills that truly transform individuals and create communities reflecting the diversity of humankind.

In the 19th century Baha'u'llah clearly laid down the basis for creating Bridges of Understanding, which readers will find in The Story of Baha'u'llah. He is quoted in a message sent by the Universal House of Justice to the world’s religious leaders, calling all to work together:

“There can be do doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God," wrote Baha’u’llah. "The difference between the ordinances under which they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements and exigencies of the age in which they were revealed. . . . Arise and, armed with the power of faith, shatter to pieces the gods of your vain imaginings, the sowers of dissension amongst you. Cleave unto that which draweth you together and uniteth you.” 

* The Golden Rule: Click on the banner at the U.S. Baha’i site (the one with the same symbols as those at the top of this post). As you roll your mouse over each symbol, you will see the Golden Rule as stated in that Faith, each a variation of  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Related Blog Posts:
The Roses We Bring to Our Friends
Bridges of Understanding

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