reblogged using Press This
The Duty of Kindness and Sympathy Towards Strangers and Foreigners
Paris in the 1900s
It is hardest to write of those things about which we feel most deeply. Today I wish to write about someone whose words and life have profoundly influenced and inspired me. That person is Abdu’l Baha: the son of the founder of the Baha’i Faith and its leader from 1892 to 1921. I wish to address particularly what Abdu’l Baha had to say about the issue of ‘foreignness’.
One hundred years ago, on 16 and 17 October 1911, he gave his first recorded talk to the people of Paris. The theme of his talk was “the duty of kindness and sympathy towards strangers and foreigners”.
What did Abdu’l Baha see when he arrived in that centre of civilisation that led him to conclude that the first thing of which he should speak should be the relationship between natives and foreigners?
He did not however speak of borders or political theories. Nor did he speak of sovereignty or cultural difference. He spoke to us as individuals asking us to reflect on the way in which we treat strangers and foreigners in our midst.
“I ask you not to think only of yourselves,” he said.
These simple words seem to me to address the very heart of the divisions on which the exclusion of non-citizens is built.