In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful!
Today, thanks to scientific advancements, territories that were once isolated have drawn closer to one another and the cries of those who suffer oppression and torment can be heard by their compatriots more clearly than ever before. Let there be no doubt that those who inflict such anguish and who continue to regard themselves as superior to others will no longer be able to suppress the legitimacy of a sound and progressive way of life or to deter the progress of their society through the promotion of pointless religious conflicts born of anti-human, uncivilized, unbridled individualism and self-aggrandizement that breed attitudes of superiority.
For more than a century, humanity has been wrestling with notions that foster self-supremacy. In the century just passed, we witnessed that the posture of racial superiority led to the disaster of the Second World War; a conflagration that was marked by the massacres of the holocaust and the deaths of countless others. The atrocities inflicted in the name of the superior race propelled humanity to rise up and to institute measures aimed at deterring any recurrence of these bloody crimes. Humanity has paid a heavy price to learn how to avoid attitudes of racial superiority.
Now, although many communities are actively addressing the scourge of racism, alas religious discrimination remains alive; the horrific events of 11 September 2001 demonstrated the potential power of religious bigotry to inflict upon both the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds an experience perhaps even more horrendous than the Second World War. Islamic extremism is born of the thinking of a group that considers its primitive reading of the Islamic texts as the truth. Its adherents have no regard for the lives or well-being of the followers of other faiths; time and again they have demonstrated this lack of respect by their actions. How many humans should be killed, how much innocent blood should be spilt, and how many highly cultured individuals should be trampled under the tyranny of the self-righteous and the mendacious before communities awaken and rise up to eradicate notions of religious superiority?
Today it is a source of joy to observe that when even a small step is taken towards justice, towards eradication of religious discrimination and the establishment of peaceful coexistence among the followers of various faiths and beliefs, and when the true vision of the Almighty God and His messengers—which in fact teaches respect for all, regardless of belief—is upheld, its call to love and freedom is received with the support of open-minded persons the world over, who, though of varying creeds and religions, respond in one voice, calling for the path of the love of humanity to be followed and the lives, property, and honour of all to be safeguarded, regardless of religion or sect.
In the first three days following the news of the presentation of an artwork to the followers of the Bahá’í Faith as a symbol of friendship and coexistence among the adherents of all religions, more than 12,000 messages supporting this symbolic act were sent to my office and such expressions of appreciation continue to arrive. The volume of correspondence received is so extensive that my office does not have the capacity to reply to each message individually. During the short time that has passed since the presentation of this artwork, Bahá’í and non-Bahá’ís— especially my dear compatriots, both Muslim and non-Muslim — have responded to its intended message with joy and, by the breadth of their vision, have brought my heartfelt intention closer to realization.
By expressing their approval, both directly and indirectly, religious leaders and followers of other faiths and religions, as well as intellectuals in numerous countries, have added to the value of this step which calls for the equality of all human beings and religious freedom to be upheld and for religious and sectarian prejudices to be rejected. Plainly, communities everywhere are wearied and resentful of prejudice, religious discrimination, and self-superiority; people the world over are seeking the means to free their societies of these disastrous ills for they invariably lead to insecurity, cruelty, and even death.
This lowly one was only the creator of that symbolic work, but it has been presented on behalf of all those who support this action. Therefore, I extend my utmost gratitude to my respected fellow citizens and to the valued intellectuals and leaders of various religions in numerous countries who openly support my symbolic act, and bow my head to them in respect. You are the ones who, although of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and religions, stand united and speak out in one voice against infringements upon the rights of any human being on account of his or her beliefs. This solidarity and unity of voice, together with constant action, will definitely lead to the removal of primitive thoughts of self-superiority which, in the name of God and His religion, have repeatedly made societies the bereaved victims of their crimes. To fight against extremism and self-supremacy does not require military strategy, it rather needs agreement, support, and the constant adherence of the followers of all religions to their faiths’ teachings; this is especially true of clerics and intellectuals, whose constant explanations may serve to raise consciousness about the inherent dangers of religious and sectarian discrimination and the imperative need to manifest friendship and coexistence, so that peace, security, and tranquility may return to human communities.
Awareness of the harm inflicted through ethnic, racial, and gender discrimination is steadily growing in many parts of the world; alongside the efforts to eradicate these forms of prejudice, support must be extended to peaceful movements that aim to address denominational and sectarian discrimination, so that religious extremism and fundamentalism, which act falsely in the name of God, will ultimately be eradicated.
This is not possible unless the religiously learned and thinkers reflect deeply upon those principles of their faiths that call for human dignity to be safeguarded and the rights of all the children of man to be upheld, regardless of religion, race, or nationality. Our ancestors managed, through struggle, unity of purpose, and enormous suffering to raise consciousness about the damage that is inflicted through prejudices of race and gender.
We, too, together, can and must, strive earnestly to efface religious and sectarian intolerance and dispel the concept of the superiority of belief, so as to pass on to future generations a world characterized by equality and respect for all.
Let us be humans first before we are Muslims, Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians, Bahá’ís, Buddhists, irreligious, or atheists.
This lowly one once again invites his fellow citizens to love and affection, friendship and compassion, sympathy and mercy, forgiveness and generosity, unity and solidarity, assistance and support, respect for the lives, property, and dignity of others; let us hold no regard for the instigators of hatred and disunity. Iran, with its abundant resources and prospects belongs to all of its people, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender does not belong exclusively to one particular class or faith. I also request all thoughtful activists and respected intellectuals across the world to continue to follow the path of truth-seeking and friendship, until the time comes when respect for difference of faith and belief will have been established, that no one may suffer any more on account of conflicts arising from religious prejudice. I hope that through the constant efforts of all caring people throughout the world, such discrimination will be removed, so that humanity, freed from the ravages of religious conflict, will be able to devise remedies for the many urgent ecological problems facing the world and thus forestall the chaos that will ensue should this matter not receive the attention it requires.
Once again I beg you to accept the most sincere gratitude of this, your lowly brother.
In anticipation of His blessings, the imploring one, ‘Abdu’l-Hamid Ma‘sumi Tihrani