March 16, 2021

Healing Wounds

by Liliane Nkunzimana

The one-year anniversary marking the death of George Floyd is coming up. In many ways the multitudes of people who expressed anger at this particular death of a Black man were mourning the death of those who died before him and at the injustice that racialized people continue to experience today. The resounding response to address anti-Black racism has raised hopes that this particular instance was perhaps a turning point.

For the events of last summer to indeed be a turning point requires sustained effort to both understand and act in good faith. Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith and the great-grandson of the founder, Bahá’u’lláh, wrote about the “grievous and slow-healing wounds” suffered by Blacks in North America.

To think about the extent to which Black people as well other racialized individuals today continue to be affected by the racial prejudice that is deeply ingrained in systems throughout society, it helps to understand the nature of these wounds not only for those who suffer them, but also the harm done to those who cannot see or recognize the harm.

If we are to build a just society, do we not need the contributions of all its members? And if our family members, neighbours or compatriots are weighed down by systems that continuously put them at risk simply because of the colour of their skin, do we not have a responsibility to stop and really seek to understand the magnitude of these wounds?

The sincerity of our efforts to understand the injuries of racial prejudice opens doors for conversations that perhaps we have not had before. For these conversations to lead us towards healing, there needs to be a willingness to trust and keep the door open for more conversation, for friendships we have not had before and community connections that are new and unfamiliar.

Shoghi Effendi spoke about the need for “genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort” to heal the racial divide. As we look back to the events of last year, this is an opportune time to think deeply about the nature of our interactions with members of all races. In as much as the ideals of the Bahá’í Faith transcend false notions of race, we all live in a world that has upheld these notions and to a certain extent we may unknowingly have internalised them.

Just as we are affected by the world around us, we also have ability to influence conversations, uplift hearts and make fundamental changes in our life that contribute to the creation of a more just society especially through friendships and acts of service.

Shoghi Effendi writes, “We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.”

As we look to a new Bahá’í year, which at the end of the Bahá’í fasting period begins on March 20, let us look to understand and rethink our relationships with others. Let us seek remedies to these old, grievous and slow-healing wounds. Above all else, let us seek to build true friendships essential for the creation of a more just world.

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