First Steps Toward Unity
As a means of promoting religious unity Bahá’u’lláh advocates the utmost charity and tolerance, and calls on His followers to “consort with the people of all religions with joy and gladness.” In His last Will and Testament He says:—
Conflict and contention are categorically forbidden in His Book. This is a decree of God in this Most Great Revelation. It is divinely preserved from annulment and is invested by Him with the splendor of His confirmation.
O ye that dwell on earth! The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity or dissension.… We fain would hope that the people of Bahá may be guided by the blessed words: “Say: all things are of God.” This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smoldereth within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity. Verily He speaketh the truth and leadeth the way. He is the All-Powerful, the Exalted, the Gracious.
All must abandon prejudices and must even go to each other’s churches and mosques, for, in all of these worshipping places, the Name of God is mentioned. Since all gather to worship God, what difference is there? None of them worship Satan. The Muḥammadans must go to the churches of the Christians and the Synagogues of the Jews, and vice versa, the others must go to the Muḥammadan Mosques. They hold aloof from one another merely because of unfounded prejudices and dogmas. In America I went to the Jewish Synagogues, which are similar to the Christian Churches, and I saw them worshipping God everywhere. In many of these places I spoke about the original foundations of the divine religions, and I explained to them the proofs of the validity of the divine prophets and of the Holy Manifestations. I encouraged them to do away with blind imitations. All of the leaders must, likewise, go to each other’s Churches and speak of the foundation and of the fundamental principles of the divine religions. In the utmost unity and harmony they must worship God, in the worshipping places of one another, and must abandon fanaticism.
Were even these first steps accomplished and a state of friendly mutual tolerance established between the various religious sects, what a wonderful change would be brought about in the world! In order that real unity may be achieved, however, something more than this is required. For the disease of sectarianism, tolerance is a valuable palliative, but it is not a radical cure. It does not remove the cause of the trouble.
Excerpt from Baha'u'llah and the New Era.
Originally published in 1923, this book by Dr. John E. Esslemont—an early British Bahá’í—has been translated into numerous languages and remains a key introductory text to the Bahá’í religion.