The Fifth Principle—The Abolition of Prejudices
Updated: Sep 12, 2020
An excerpt from Paris Talks by 'Abdu'l-Baha. Talk dated November 13th, 1911 and presented at 4 Avenue de Camoëns, Paris.
All prejudices, whether of religion, race, politics or nation, must be renounced, for these prejudices have caused the world’s sickness. - 'Abdu'l-Baha
ALL prejudices, whether of religion, race, politics or nation, must be renounced, for these prejudices have caused the world’s sickness. It is a grave malady which, unless arrested, is capable of causing the destruction of the whole human race. Every ruinous war, with its terrible bloodshed and misery, has been caused by one or other of these prejudices.
The deplorable wars going on in these days are caused by the fanatical religious hatred of one people for another, or the prejudices of race or color.
Until all these barriers erected by prejudice are swept away, it is not possible for humanity to be at peace. For this reason Bahá’u’lláh has said, “These Prejudices are destructive to mankind.”
Contemplate first the prejudice of religion: consider the nations of so-called religious people; if they were truly worshippers of God they would obey His law which forbids them to kill one another.
If priests of religion really adored the God of love and served the Divine Light, they would teach their people to keep the chief Commandment, “To be in love and charity with all men.” But we find the contrary, for it is often the priests who encourage nations to fight. Religious hatred is ever the most cruel!
All religions teach that we should love one another; that we should seek out our own shortcomings before we presume to condemn the faults of others, that we must not consider ourselves superior to our neighbors! We must be careful not to exalt ourselves lest we be humiliated.
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! How many men who have seemed saint-like to their friends have fallen into the greatest humiliation. Think of Judas Iscariot; he began well, but remember his end! On the other hand, Paul, the Apostle, was in his early life an enemy of Christ, whilst later he became His most faithful servant. How then can we flatter ourselves and despise others?
Let us therefore be humble, without prejudices, preferring others’ good to our own! Let us never say, “I am a believer but he is an infidel,” “I am near to God, whilst he is an outcast.” We can never know what will be the final judgment! Therefore let us help all who are in need of any kind of assistance.
Let us teach the ignorant, and take care of the young child until he grows to maturity. When we find a person fallen into the depths of misery or sin we must be kind to him, take him by the hand, help him to regain his footing, his strength; we must guide him with love and tenderness, treat him as a friend not as an enemy.
We have no right to look upon any of our fellow-mortals as evil.
Concerning the prejudice of race: it is an illusion, a superstition pure and simple! For God created us all of one race. There were no differences in the beginning, for we are all descendants of Adam. In the beginning, also, there were no limits and boundaries between the different lands; no part of the earth belonged more to one people than to another. In the sight of God there is no difference between the various races. Why should man invent such a prejudice? How can we uphold war caused by an illusion?
God has not created men that they should destroy one another. All races, tribes, sects and classes share equally in the Bounty of their Heavenly Father.
The only difference lies in the degree of faithfulness, of obedience to the laws of God. There are some who are as lighted torches, there are others who shine as stars in the sky of humanity. The lovers of mankind, these are the superior men, of whatever nation, creed, or color they may be. For it is they to whom God will say these blessed words, “Well done, My good and faithful servants.” In that day He will not ask, “Are you English, French, or perhaps Persian? Do you come from the East, or from the West?”
The only division that is real is this: There are heavenly men and earthly men; self-sacrificing servants of humanity in the love of the Most High, bringing harmony and unity, teaching peace and goodwill to men. On the other hand there are those selfish men, haters of their brethren, in whose hearts prejudice has replaced loving kindness, and whose influence breeds discord and strife.
To which race or to which color belong these two divisions of men, to the White, to the Yellow, to the Black, to the East or to the West, to the North or to the South? If these are God’s divisions, why should we invent others? Political prejudice is equally mischievous, it is one of the greatest causes of bitter strife amongst the children of men. There are people who find pleasure in breeding discord, who constantly endeavor to goad their country into making war upon other nations—and why? They think to advantage their own country to the detriment of all others. They send armies to harass and destroy the land, in order to become famous in the world, for the joy of conquest. That it may be said: “Such a country has defeated another, and brought it under the yoke of their stronger, more superior rule.” This victory, bought at the price of much bloodshed, is not lasting! The conqueror shall one day be conquered; and the vanquished ones victorious! Remember the history of the past: did not France conquer Germany more than once—then did not the German nation overcome France?
We learn also that France conquered England; then was the English nation victorious over France!
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? Is any victory worth the inevitable train of evils consequent upon human slaughter, the grief and sorrow and ruin which must overwhelm so many homes of both nations? For it is not possible that one country alone should suffer.
Oh! why will man, the disobedient child of God, who should be an example of the power of the spiritual law, turn his face away from the Divine Teaching and put all his effort into destruction and war?
My hope is that in this enlightened century the Divine Light of love will shed its radiance over the whole world, seeking out the responsive heart’s intelligence of every human being; that the light of the Sun of Truth will lead politicians to shake off all the claims of prejudice and superstition, and with freed minds to follow the Policy of God: for Divine Politics are mighty, man’s politics are feeble! God has created all the world, and bestows His Divine Bounty upon every creature.
Are we not the servants of God? Shall we neglect to follow our Master’s Example, and ignore His Commands?
I pray that the Kingdom shall come on Earth, and that all darkness shall be driven away by the effulgence of the Heavenly Sun.