Prejudice is a complex reality. In the dictionary it is defined as “an adverse opinion or learning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.” This definition accurately describes the basic meaning of the concept. The greater complexity, however, arises from an unmentioned facet of prejudice: the vast implications and outcomes that result from its existence. In His discussion of the abolition of prejudice as the fifth of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asserts that this unfortunately prevalent phenomenon is “a grave malady which, unless arrested, is capable of causing the destruction of the whole human race.” He additionally states: “All prejudices, whether of religion, race, politics or nation, must be renounced, for these prejudices have caused the world’s sickness.”
In His talk, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá then analyzes these three forms of prejudice.
RELIGION: All religions, He points out, teach us that we should love each other. It is our duty to help our fellow human beings and to be humble. He goes on to ask, “Who are we that we should judge? How shall we know who, in the sight of God, is the most upright man? God’s thoughts are not like our thoughts!”
RACE: Regarding racial prejudice, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asserts that there is no difference between different races in the sight of God, and then asks, “Why should man invent such a prejudice?” He then changes the paradigm of what is considered variation between individuals when he poignantly asserts that “the only difference [between human beings] lies in the degree of faithfulness, of obedience to the laws of God.”
POLITICS: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentions that although there are people who enjoy “breeding discord,” the results of advancing one’s country politically are not lasting. He states: “The conqueror shall one day be conquered; and the vanquished ones victorious…These glorious conquests are so ephemeral! Why attach so great importance to them and to their fame, as to be willing to shed the blood of the people for their attainment?”
Meditating upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s eloquent talk brings to light the unsoundness of prejudice and also reminds us that it is a blessing to be relieved of all prejudices; this creates more space in our minds to think constructively instead of being burdened by unfounded negativity. It also serves as a reminder for us to be vigilant in our thinking lest we allow even the slightest bit of prejudice to cloud our thoughts or to subject ourselves (and those around us) to the malignant results that clearly ensue.
Paris Talks, “The Fifth Principle — The Abolition of Prejudices”
Photo by Fiona Gohari, www.nineteenmonths.com