When a Thought of War Comes, Oppose It By a Stronger Thought of Peace: Baha'i Inspiration Amidst Disunity

I join millions worldwide to mourn the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, not because I knew him or that community personally, but because injustice committed toward this youth is an injustice to us all. This issue is complex, touching on interpretations of the letter of the law, a too-long history of racial injustice and violence, a widening opportunity gap and fundamentally, a lack of unity across people who are only different from each other on a superficial level.

In my sadness following the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson and the ensuing violence and fury, I find inspiration from these words of Abdul-Baha, offered at a dinner in Paris in 1911, upon his release from living over 40 years as a prisoner of conscience:

There is nothing so heart-breaking and terrible as an outburst of human savagery!
I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. ...
Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness. If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.
Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate. How many seemingly impossible events are coming to pass in these days! Set your faces steadily towards the Light of the World. Show love to all; 'Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Man'. Take courage!
God never forsakes His children who strive and work and pray! Let your hearts be filled with the strenuous desire that tranquility and harmony may encircle all this warring world. So will success crown your efforts, and with the universal brotherhood will come the Kingdom of God in peace and goodwill.
In this room today are members of many races, French, American, English, German, Italian, brothers and sisters meeting in friendship and harmony! Let this gathering be a foreshadowing of what will, in very truth, take place in this world, when every child of God realizes that they are leaves of one tree, flowers in one garden, drops in one ocean, and sons and daughters of one Father, whose name is love!

(Source: Abdul-Baha, Paris Talks, "The Pitiful Causes of War, and the Duty of Everyone to Strive for Peace," October 21, 1911.)

In addition to using this text from a century ago to engage in discussion with your family, friends or your classroom, see useful resources like curriculum and discussion points from Facing History, this compendium of thoughtful questions and materials on Teaching About the Jordan Davis Murder by some of my most admired educators, including Jose Vilson, Chris Lehmann, Diana Laufenberg and Audrey Watters, Teaching Unity, a guide for parents and teachers of elementary and middle school students, The Vision of Race Unity: America's Most Challenging Issue by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States, and my previous post on The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males: We All Should Pay Attention.

As difficult as this issue is to talk about, from whatever perspective you come, our lives depend upon it.