[pray]When Dom DeFlorio talks about unity of mankind, the elimination of prejudice, equality of men and women and ultimately world peace, he is not practicing for the interview portion of the Miss America pageant. In fact, he speaks to something that holds much more weight than a Miss America tiara. DeFlorio, a social relations and supply chain management sophomore, is a member of the world’s most widespread religion you’ve never heard about.
The Baha’i Faith’s five to seven million members worldwide offer a unique view of religion, centering upon finding unity between all factions of mankind, promoting equality, and accepting difference. The Baha’i Club at MSU creates a community where these beliefs are fostered and where Baha’is can practice their faith together. Because of the Baha’i Faith’s focus on connectivity of the world’s major religions and mankind as one entity, it has people wondering how altered the world would be today with the adoption of Baha’i beliefs, and people asking, “is the Baha’i Faith the answer?”
“There is strong disunity in the world today. The idea of the Baha’i Faith is that we aren’t countries or races. We are one mankind and one world — you’re looking out for everybody and there is a general love and acceptance of everyone,” DeFlorio said.
The idea of one mankind, a core belief of the Baha’i Faith, is derived from the progression of history. The emergence of specific leaders of major world religions throughout history such as Buddha, Muhammad or Jesus is comparable to the sun rising or the changing of seasons, said Ned Walker, microbiology and genetics professor and Baha’i Club advisor. However, Baha’is believe the most recent event on the timeline of the world’s religious leaders is the emergence of Bahá’u’lláh (ba-haw-oo-LAW), whom the Baha’i faith is based on, in the 1800s. It is in Bahá’u’lláh’s writings that the religion is defined: The presence of one God. Religions are connected. Human beings are spiritual. Humanity is one. Eliminate prejudice. Men and women are equal. Science and religion are harmonious. Establish world peace.
Baha’i connects all major world religions under one God by saying every previous religious leader carried a useful message for the time frame during which they lived, but no matter how different their messages, the prophets came from the same source. Bahá’u’lláh carries the message fit for the current era. This message concentrates on dispelling many of the inharmonious aspects of the world today, such as prejudice and inequality of men and women, because they hinder the journey to the ultimate goal, the unification of humanity into one body.
“Baha’is believe mankind as an entity has gone through a history of development to a point where now it can view itself as one entity. Before you could say, \’I am this nationality or this ethnic group.\’ Now we can say we’re one entity. Other major world religions are one process, as founders have come at different times, different places, but ultimately had the same message,” Walker said.
The core beliefs fit together to create a picturesque view of a world void of inequality and injustice, making it clear why the religion enamors people clamoring for a speck of hope in the midst of our seemingly perpetual state of disunity in the world. Do current events like the Iraq War, the global AIDS pandemic, the Hurricane Katrina aftermath or the fact that in a world where it is easier than ever to get from country to country, it actually seems more difficult than ever to get people from country to country expose a white elephant sitting in all of our rooms? Is the Baha’i Faith the remedy? Could inequality, injustice and turmoil become stories from a distant past with the adoption of Baha’is’ beliefs?
“A lot of the world’s problems have been going on for a long time. I think people are going to get sick of what is going on and will start to question things and say ‘maybe this isn’t working,’” DeFlorio said. “The Baha’i Faith offers a fresh approach to the world’s problems.”
Achieving a sense of oneness for all of humanity appears to be a rather lofty goal. However, specific suggestions from Bahá’u’lláh’s writings provide vehicles for unity. For example, the adoption of one currency for the entire world to use is recommended, as is the creation of one world language that would not replace native languages, but would ensure free flowing communication across borders. A common system of measurement is also suggested as a way to diminish cultural barriers. Evidence of these prescriptions being applied today can be seen in the metric system or the adoption of the Euro, but both leave room for complete expansion to all areas and cultures. “These are all ways to unify people and break down the walls that separate them. We look at this as a new era,” Walker said.
The MSU Baha’i Club promotes these core beliefs and unifies the Baha’i community by meeting twice a month. Sometimes meetings are social events with games or other activities, while others are spent in study circles, reading and discussing Baha’i writings. Because there is no established house of worship for Baha’is, feasts and other celebrations are held at the house of someone in the community. DeFlorio estimated that there are five to ten active youth Baha’is on campus. The club activities are in addition to everyday practices of being a Baha’i such as daily prayers, reading Baha’i writings and interacting with people in a way that upholds the core beliefs.
As hopeful as the Baha\’i outlook is on the future, not everyone is convinced. Penetrating the thickness of problems like poverty and inequality by the adoption of a certain structure of beliefs suggests a kind of idealism that seems to often be interrupted by facts of life like supply and demand and self-interest. For some, political maneuvering and the quest for profit and power trump efforts made to achieve a sense of unity across borders and bodies of water. Besides, some would argue the objectives of the Baha’i Faith are nothing they have not heard before. [Dom]
“Every major world religion promotes a lot of the same things that Baha’i does. There is no religion that says go to war, there is no religion that says hate everyone around you,” said Matt Levitt, political theory and constitutional democracy and religious studies sophomore who defines his religious views as agnostic. “And I think we live in a world where people are claiming that they’re doing things in the name of religion, when it’s really politically motivated. I don’t think Baha’i can solve the world’s problems because the problems are political, not religious.”
Determining the causes and solutions to all of the world’s problems is enough to make anyone’s head explode. But the options that Baha’i presents are not polarized – either you join the Faith and commit to its beliefs or you don’t. While it may not eradicate racism or sexism, looking at the gray area and considering Baha’i beliefs in conjunction with one’s already instilled values cannot be harmful, and may even encourage an expanded worldview. Even though you aren’t practicing for the interview portion of the Miss America pageant (or even if you are), what is the harm in considering looking at the world as a single entity instead of constantly distinguishing between miniscule parts? Maybe the crown isn’t guaranteed with that answer, but “working for world peace” is becoming trite anyway.

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