Saturday, January 06, 2007

"Minority" Is A State of Mind.

Photo of young people in the “Conquering the Word” program in Colombia, one of the Bahá’í community’s many initiatives for the spiritual empowerment of junior youth, focuses on young people aged 12-15. Its materials are designed to improve their power of expression and enhance their capabilities related to making moral choices.

The Jerusalem Post has a really great article about a Baha'i couple serving the Faith as representatives of the Baha'i World Center in Jerusalem. I particularly like the fact that the journalist gives a lot of information about the spiritual journey of these two souls, both of whom are Americans from Christian backgrounds. The opening paragraph is below:

Uniqueness is something that many of us strive for, especially in our accomplishments and sense of style, but it is not always easy to be a minority of one in a social or religious setting.

Yet it doesn't seem to be much of a problem for Barbara and Kern Wisman, the Jerusalem-based representatives of the Haifa-headquartered Baha'i World Center.(Read the whole thing here)

This story reminded me of an experience I had while one of only two Baha'is who were students at Harvard Divinity School. I was working at the library and a Buddhist came up and we starting chatting about our religious holidays or something like that. All of a sudden he looked at me and said, "You don't act like a minority (meaning in this case a religious, not racial minority)." I was a little surprised at this statement, but then remembered the many conversations I had, had with Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and even Catholic students about their challenges in an overwhelmingly Protestant, Christian Divinity School. I replied, "I guess I don't think about myself like a "minority", because as a Baha'i I believe in the oneness of religion. All these Faiths have a common origin, these students are my brothers and sisters, whether they see it that way or not. I just try to act like a Baha'i. I don't have anything to be defensive about."

Of course this only reflects my personal attitude, I know many Baha'is who sometimes feel self conscious about being "the only" in different settings in their lives, especially if theyy are an adolescent or young adult where the pressure to "fit in" is particularly ruthless. Those who belong to "majority" religions and sit comfortably in the assumed superiority of their faith by virtue of its size, seem to forget that in the beginning of all religions, the communities were a small band of devoted people who were treated with indifference or outright hostility by others. Yet it was such small bands of devoted people whose faith has time and again changed the course of history and who are today, rightly celebrated for the power of their spirits. This dynamic which is played out whenever a fresh portion of the Revelation of God is offered to humanity, is a testimony to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. This power is again at work in the world through the efforts of the Baha'i community to translate the teachings of Baha'u'llah into action, and is also exerting its influence among all people of good will who have caught the spirit of this age which is the oneness of humanity.

For some concrete examples of what God is once again doing with a small band of devoted people, check out this recent article from American Baha'i News about the annual Conference on Social and Economic Development in the Americas.

If you ever find yourself feeling down about being the "only", whatever your religion, remember these inspiring words from the Baha'i Writings:

"Be not grieved at the smallness of your number and thank God for the power of your spirits."