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June 3, 2012

Question: How does your faith regard inter-religious dialogue?

 One of the three central teachings of the Bahá’í Faith (1844-), along with the oneness of God and the unity of humanity, is the essential oneness of the world’s great religions. This teaching has been mentioned as far back as the mid-19th century in the sacred writings of the two Prophet-Founders of the Bahá’í Faith, the Báb (the Gate) (1819-1850) who was the forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh (the Glory of God) (1817-1892).

It follows that Bahá’ís would be keenly interested in engaging and promoting inter-religious dialogue, and deepening their knowledge of the commonalities of the world’s religions. The prohibitions that have existed in some other religions of forbidding association with non-believers, regarding them as unclean, and/or followers of the lie or Satan, etc. have been expressly abolished by Bahá’u’lláh. Instead, we find more enlightened and progressive teachings: “That the divers communions of the earth, and the manifold systems of religious belief, should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among men, is, in this Day, of the essence of the Faith of God and His Religion. These principles and laws, these firmly-established and mighty systems, have proceeded from one Source, and are rays of one Light. That they differ one from another is to be attributed to the varying requirements of the ages in which they were promulgated” (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 287).

‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son, followed his father’s counsel: “The utterance of God is a lamp, whose light is these words: Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship” (Gleanings, p. 288). During his two year teaching tour of western Europe, Canada and the United States (1911-1912), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke in churches of all denominations, synagogues and mosques. He encouraged the followers of these religions to visit one another’s houses of worship and to associate with one another in love and harmony.

Inter-religious dialogue is not just a hand-holding exercise for Bahá’ís, especially for the Bahá’í Community of Ottawa Office of Interfaith. It involves study, meetings, research and dialogue. Every year the Bahá’í community hosts World Religion Day around the world.
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen June 3, 2012
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