Dan Rather on the Baha'i Faith
Published in The American Dream: Stories from the Heart of Our Nation
"The Bahá'í have been persecuted from their beginnings. In 1844, a Persian merchant now known to the faithful as the Bab proclaimed that God had told him to prepare the world for a divine messenger. When the Bab and his message began to attract a following, they were set upon by extremist followers of the Muslim clergy. In 1850, they killed the Bab. Thirteen years later, a surviving disciple, Bahá'u'lláh, revealed that he was the one of whom the Bab had foretold.
Bahá'u'lláh taught, to put it in simple terms, that God is too great for any one religion to fully contain. Each, however, has contributed to humankind's understanding and progress. To the Bahá'í the teachings of Abraham, Moses, the Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Krishna, and Mohammed are all pieces of a vast universal puzzle. All have made equal contributions to morality and civilization, and all are studied closely by Bahá'í. "
"Their faith asks them to work toward eliminating prejudice of all kinds. Women and men are equals in Bahá'í families, ... "Man and woman are two wings of the bird of humanity. If one wing is weaker, the bird cannot fly." Bahá'í are encouraged to promote their religion but to avoid proselytizing in any way that would infringe on the privacy or rights of others. Each Bahá'í is expected to obey the laws of the country in which he or she lives and to serve the needs of his or her community. They are instructed to avoid partisan politics and do not accept political appointments.
Essentially, Bahá'í do not pose a threat to any religion or to any of the more than 250 nations and territories in which they live. They are not revolutionaries. They are, however, committed to changing the world through faith and education. Because they are peaceful and unobtrusive, it can be difficult to understand why they have been singled out for persecution in Iran. ... it's hard to see it as boiling down to anything more than hatred. And that's something that's tough for fair-minded people to fully grasp.
During the nineteenth century, an estimated twenty thousand Bahá'í were killed for their faith in what is now Iran. ...The twentieth century saw no end to the executions, denial of rights, beatings, and jailings. Since the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1978, more than two hundred Bahá'í have been executed by the state. We don't know how many have been killed by citizens acting on their own in remote regions. As of this writing, four Bahá'í are on death row in Iran for practicing their faith or for possessing Bahá'í literature. Many Bahá'í and human rights workers believe only frequent condemnation by the international community and the United Nations has prevented a much larger and systematic pogrom against the three hundred thousand Iranian Bahá'í."