In the world as we know it today – and through much of historical time – to be identified by a society as a member of a minority is to be vulnerable. Repeatedly in history we see terrible outbreaks of persecution, violence and oppression against minorities. No part of the world and no culture is exempt. Of course such persecution is rooted in how we think about our fellow human beings. Only when a consciousness of the oneness of humankind truly takes hold will such horrors abate. Thus as we have already explored Bahá’u’lláh frames a new understanding of human relationships. Speaking of all human beings he states;
Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.
Bahá’u’lláh wrote both generally on the persecution of minorities, and specifically in relation to particular persecutions, including that suffered by his own followers.
In response to a question as to whether the views of some that it was permissible to persecute the followers of other religions Bahá’u’lláh wrote:
It is not permissible to contend with anyone, nor is it acceptable in the sight of God to ill-treat or oppress any soul.
Elsewhere he captures poignantly the terrible deeds human beings do.
The unbelievers and the faithless have set their minds on four things: first, the shedding of blood; second, the burning of books; third, the shunning of the followers of other religions;
In the Lawh-i-Maqsud, which was written in 1882, Bahá’u’lláh criticises persecution and discrimination against Jewish minorities.
Two great powers who regard themselves as the founders and leaders of civilization and the framers of constitutions have risen up against the followers of the Faith associated with Him who conversed with God. … Be ye warned, O men of understanding. It ill beseemeth the station of man to commit tyranny
In this passage “Him who conversed with God” is a reference to Moses. Although there is no known writing of Bahá’u’lláh that explicitly states which two great powers meant, given the time frame involved it is highly probable that one of the “great powers” was Russia, as pogroms broke out there in 1881 against Jewish populations.
Bahá’u’lláh experienced persecution himself, as did his followers and Bahá’u’lláh was blunt in his condemnation of the conduct of rulers concerned (primarily the Ottoman authorities and the Qajar Shah).
What! Cleave ye to your own devices, and cast behind your backs the precepts of God? Ye, indeed, have wronged your own selves and others. Would that ye could perceive it! Say: If your rules and principles be founded on justice, why is it, then, that ye follow those which accord with your corrupt inclinations and reject such as conflict with your desires? By what right claim ye, then, to judge fairly between men? Are your rules and principles such as to justify your persecution of Him Who, at your bidding, hath presented Himself before you, your rejection of Him, and your infliction on Him every day of grievous injury? Hath He ever, though it be for one short moment, disobeyed you? All the inhabitants of ‘Iráq, and beyond them every discerning observer, will bear witness to the truth of My words.
Twenty years have passed, O kings, during which We have, each day, tasted the agony of a fresh tribulation. No one of them that were before Us hath endured the things We have endured. Would that ye could perceive it! They that rose up against Us have put us to death, have shed our blood, have plundered our property, and violated our honour. Though aware of most of our afflictions, ye, nevertheless, have failed to stay the hand of the aggressor. For is it not your clear duty to restrain the tyranny of the oppressor, and to deal equitably with your subjects, that your high sense of justice may be fully demonstrated to all mankind?
Image Source: Captured Jewish women being rounded up during World War II in Hungary. Wikimedia commons.
(This article is the 103rd in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)