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Handout 2: Excerpts from Community Cohesion: A Bahai Perspective

The world-wide Baha'i community has attracted members from more than 2,100 ethnic and tribal backgrounds and is active in more than 220 countries and territories. Along with this great diversity the worldwide Baha'i community is among the most unified bodies of people on earth. Its unity goes far beyond a shared theology. Baha'is of many backgrounds work closely together in daily community life, consulting and serving together on the faith's governing institutions, enjoying fellowship at regular gatherings for worship, and volunteering together on a wide range of social and economic development projects.

Centred on the need for unity and for social cohesion Baha'i belief states that this need can best be met by valuing and appreciating diversity rather than imposed uniformity or the pretence that diversity and the issues it raises do not exist.

Another fundamental principle of the Baha'i Faith - the equality of women and men - offers a ready response to one of the concerns of the reports. Full and active participation of both sexes in the life and administration of the Baha'i community, lacking as it does a priesthood or clergy, is a cardinal feature of Baha'i life.

The challenge facing the leaders of religious communities if they are to contribute meaningfully to building social cohesion in the country, is to submerge their theological differences in a great spirit of mutual forbearance, and work together for the advancement of human understanding and peace. The Baha'i view of religious truth as relative, not absolute, offers a framework within which they might work toward this goal.

The inclusive vision of the Baha'i community, its practical experience and example, and the existing participation of Baha'is in social cohesion projects offer a model and constructive input to the development and implementation of community cohesion strategies that can make community unity a proud claim of the United Kingdom.

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