The other day we were at a Naw-Ruz party with many friends and family members from every religious and ethnic background. Naw-Ruz which means a new day marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and is celebrated by many people including Persians, Afghans, Zoroastrians, Bahaís and many others as the beginning of their calendar year.
One of the guests was moved by the love and unity in the room accentuated by the diversity of people. Standing in the hallway with a small group of guests, he began lamenting how much he wished his teen age children could see this, and how much we need to learn about the art of oneness and unity and how delightful it is to be part of such a heavenly gathering. Another guest reflected how growing up in Iran he was taught to only care for his close family and friends and consider the others as strangers and in fact he was taught to guard himself against anyone who had a different culture, different religion, different economic status, or different values. With the idea of being strangers also came the deadly spirit of superiority. His mother would warn him: ” Our family has integrity (aaberoo), you cannot marry that girl who is no body and whose parents are nobody, no matter how educated she is or how special she seems. What do you think people will say if you bring her into our family?” A Chinese guest joined in the conversation and said; my parents still warn me not to think of marrying anyone but Hon Chinese, constantly reminding me that the friends I hang out with at school are nothing more than hamburger friends and unworthy of being taken seriously! Hearing my parents makes me sad and mad at the same time. What a small and limited world they have. I married the Chinese princes my mother insisted upon and we got divorced after a year. We were supposedly the same race, if there is such a thing as race, but we were worlds apart as far as our character, our aspirations and values.
A Persian friend lamented how his life experience as a child and youth in Iran was so immersed in violence that he thought it was normal that his mother beat him up every day, that his father beat his mother, and he and his brothers beat his sisters, that his teachers beat any students who disobeyed, and people in the bus and in the streets settled their differences by cussing, hitting and slapping each other until someone would jump in and separate the bloodied parties invoking a verse from Koran. He said at the beginning he would defend his parents’ violent behavior as an expression of their real love; now after living for years in the US, he is just beginning to accept that what he had experienced was not love and was not healthy, indeed it was abusive and has affected his relations with his children.
A sociology major in the group consoled everyone saying that they are not alone, and in fact all traditional cultures of the world are accustomed to prejudice and violence as a norm for settling differences, asserting authority, and imposing order. She asserted that people must be detoxed of the virus of violence and hatred. Our children must be taught about peace and equality and us as adults must be exposed to a world of peace and harmony for a good length of time to be able to tell the difference.
As I was hearing this elevated conversation all of a sudden a flash of most forgotten memory struck my brain. I remembered as a high school student in Iran visiting with a favorite young teacher Miss Amir Ghahhari. She came from a very prominent family with a celebrated history of culture and education. She had invited a few of her revered students to her house. I remember now as she introduced me to her very distinguished father in the library of their elegant house. Hearing my name, he wanted to know if I was a Muslim and when I told him in fact I am a Bahaí, he slapped me hard in my face!!! Shocked and surprised, I became speechless. How can a man of such education be so ignorant, violent and arrogant? Fortunately for me, even at that young age, I knew enough people of knowledge and character that his violent example did not invoke anger but pity becoming even more convinced that regular education without true spiritual education cannot free man from the prison of his own self. My teacher, apologized later smiling and saying her father really cared for my well being and wanted to give me a lesson in his old way!! It was old, alright!!
Humanity is in essence like one organic body and each one of us like a cell in that body. One renegade cell subjects the body to the deadly disease of cancer. In our small diverse and sadly infested global village, we must learn how to make the best of our diversity and like flowers in a garden make diversity a cause of added beauty and strength. We must learn that new social laws are needed for the new world we live in today and old and outdated traditions like old and outdated medicine is worsening the disease and killing the patient. The statement on declaration of human rights is a good start to study and to live by. Every school child must be taught its content and how it came to be and how vital it is that we respect it and uphold its standard for our won well being and safety.
At kidsidebyside, we appreciate any thoughts of support for the safety and human rights of all children especially those who are exposed to the deadly and contagious virus of hatred, intolerance and violence.
Let us hope for more of this rude awakening. And let us work together to practice peace in our daily thoughts and actions.
We welcome your suggestions and experiences.