Focus on what unites us, says BIC

September 29, 2016

WARSAW, Poland — In the face of growing racism and xenophobia, now is the time to focus on what unites us. This was one of the key points made by the Baha'i International Community (BIC) at a recent forum of European leaders in Warsaw, Poland, taking place from 19 to 30 September.

For the second year in a row, the BIC participated in the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a platform for 57 States to meet with a number of other OSCE agencies and civil society actors committed to human rights and democracy.

Addressing the participants in a session on tolerance and non-discrimination, the BIC Brussels Representative said, "One of the most pressing how people of diverse backgrounds are to live together... and how to counter discrimination, racism, and xenophobia.

Rachel Bayani from the Baha'i International Community Brussels Office Slideshow
3 images

Rachel Bayani from the Baha'i International Community Brussels Office

"A lot of thinking and work goes into devising different strategies to counter specific forms of prejudice," she continued. "Of equal importance is the need to gain a much deeper understanding of what unites us."

The BIC also commented that our readiness to articulate what constitutes our common humanity is what ultimately underlies our commitment to the elimination of prejudice.

In its comments, the BIC encouraged the OSCE to explore "how educational processes can help nurture in this generation and generations to come a rich, robust and expansive sense of common identity and develop amongst European populations a strong loyalty with and responsibility towards all of humanity, rather than only towards those sharing similar social, cultural, national, or physical characteristics".

In the session on "Fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief", the BIC contribution focused on coalition-building. In particular, it highlighted the growing tendency between a variety of social actors, whether religious or not, to speak up for each other and to build coalitions in order to promote freedom of religion and belief.

Echoing this sentiment, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Prof. Heiner Bielefeldt, praised the movement toward partnership and collaboration between various groups, noting in particular partnerships between "minority" and "majority" groups.

"One sign of hope that was also alluded to in various speeches," he commented, "is the collaboration that we have experienced and that we see now developing between different organizations."