Baha'is Put Beliefs about Racial Integration into Practice

February 17, 2001

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

On February 17, 2001, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported that members of the Baha'i Faith have been intentionally moving to neighborhoods where they are an ethnic minority, "as a matter of conscience." The Baha'i Faith is "a religion founded in the mid-1800s that now has more than 5 million followers worldwide. It emphasizes racial unity, even to the point of encouraging interracial marriage." A national spokeswoman for Baha'is in the U.S. said that "'The elimination of prejudice of all kinds is a basic Baha'i principle.'...Baha'is believe God has come through many different messengers, from Abraham to Zoroaster, and that Baha'u'llah [a man born into a wealthy Persian family in 1817, whose teachings form the basis of Baha'is' beliefs] was sent by God to achieve world peace and unity. In recent years, the Baha'i community of the United States has launched a major campaign to promote racial harmony." Baha'u'llah's teachings include the "oneness of humanity, equality of men and women." Its diversity is what attracts many to the Baha'i faith. The article gives the example of the Streiffs, a white family that moved into a predominantly black neighborhood, and the Reynolds, a black family that moved into an almost exclusively white neighborhood in Marietta, Georgia. From their experience living in China, the Streiffs "realized that to understand a culture, you have to live as part of it -- an understanding that helped inform their decision about where to live when they came to Atlanta...The Streiffs feel that they are beginning to understand the difficulties of being in a minority, and also to make some inroads into racial understanding." The father of the family, Jeff Streiff, said that "the bottom line is that I strive to really know on a heart level what I know on an intellectual level, that we're all created from the same dust."