As we celebrate Baha’u’llah’s birth in Tehran in 1817, we, as Americans, should also remember to celebrate our Constitution and the freedom of religion that is protected by it. We are a nation of immigrants who brought to these shores our own customs and traditions, including our religious traditions. As each new group of immigrants has arrived, those customs and religious traditions and beliefs have continued to contribute to the beautiful mosaic of our uniquely American national culture.
I am inspired by Baha’u’llah’s teachings on the oneness of humankind and the universality of values that are found in the holy scriptures of the world’s religions. At a time when the world is facing the growing influence of secularism, it is reassuring to know of the Baha’i community’s absolute commitment to having religion——our faith in God—play a vital role in our society, because of the unique power of religion to cause us to strive for the material and spiritual betterment of all. Borrowing from the holy scriptures of the Baha’i Faith: “True religion transforms the human heart and contributes to the transformation of society.”
Among the most admired principles of the Baha’i Faith is the championing of education for all. Sometime after I was sworn into office in 2015, my district staff attended the showing of the documentary, “To Light a Candle,” at this Baha’i Center. As a result of the wide distribution of this documentary, people around the world learned of the plight of lranian Baha’i students who were being denied higher education and “Education is not a Crime” became a cry for justice of students around the world. This cruel policy and the terrible persecution of Iranian Bahai’ s who fought it, led to the courageous initiation of the Bahai Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) in 1987, with Core Faculty in Iran and Affiliated Global Faculty at universities around the world. Despite raids, arrests and imprisonment of faculty and staff, I am pleased to learn that the BIHE is thriving, offering more than 35 different degree programs, from nearly a thousand faculty and staff who are delivering over 1,050 courses in the arts and sciences to students otherwise denied an education and a future.
The Baha’i Faith has also advocated for greater educational opportunities for people around the world, including women and minority groups who have been kept from this basic human right. As Baha’u’llah “Arts, crafts and sciences uplift the world of being, and are conducive to its exaltation… Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone… ”
The Baha’ i Faith and the writings ofBaha’u’lla direct us, as people of faith, to come together as one. The emphasis on the importance of education allows us to learn from each other and to be accepting of our differences and appreciative of our many similarities.
I am grateful to those in the Baha’ i Community for your leadership in interfaith activities throughout the world. While world peace is the ultimate goal, it will only happen when people of good will from different religious traditions engage with each other to build harmonious smaller communities where they live and worship.
As your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, I feel especially blessed to work with people of good will from the many different faith traditions that are a part of the 10th Congressional District, and I am excited about the possibility that the interfaith group in our region could become a model of community-building for others.
May we be inspired by the teachings of Baha’u’llah to continue to engage and share with each other to develop patterns of life and social structures that will allow the next generations to live in peace and prosperity!
This is an exerpt from Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s October 21, 2017 letter to the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center.