Uniting the World, Two Hearts at a Time

“Each sees in the other the Beauty of God reflected in the soul, and finding this point of similarity, they are attracted to one another in love. This love will make all men the waves of one sea, this love will make them all the stars of one heaven and the fruits of one tree. This love will bring the realization of true accord, the foundation of real unity.” -Abdu’l-Baha1

In 1904, Florence Breed and Ali-Kuli Khan married in Boston. Breed was American and Khan was Iranian; their union symbolized East and West uniting in the Baha’i Faith. When Abdu’l-Baha visited the US in 1912, the Khans hosted a luncheon for Him in Washington, D.C. There, Abdu’l-Baha defied social convention by giving Louis Gregory, an African-American Baha’i, the seat of honor. 

A few months after this luncheon, Louis Gregory and Louisa Mathew were wed in New York City. Their marriage was illegal in many parts of the United States due to racist anti-miscegenation laws. And I believe that was precisely the reason Abdu’l-Baha had encouraged Louis and Louisa to get to know each other: so that the truth of their love would expose the falsity of racial barriers.

While the Khans and Gregorys were unusual in their day, today many Baha’i marriages transcend traditional borders of race, culture, and nationality. The diversity of the global Baha’i community—second only to Christianity in its geographic scope—has facilitated these connections.

It’s not just Baha’is who are marrying beyond their social group. In my country, the US, people of all backgrounds are becoming increasingly open to such marriages. Today, 7% of native-born Americans are married to immigrants2, and 10% of US marriages unite spouses of different races or ethnicities3. In addition, today, 39% of Americans think that “the growing number of people marrying someone of a different race is good for society.”4 On the other hand, 9% say it’s bad for society.To help shift society from division toward unity, Baha’is can share Baha’u’llah’s teachings about oneness.

Sharing these teachings starts in our homes. Both my parents are Baha’i, and when my sister and I were children, they taught us to value all people. Baha’u’llah taught that every human is a noble being, a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. It’s not for us to look at the surface and try to determine the value of the jewels inside. Thanks to this early spiritual education, as I grew up, I found myself particularly attracted to people who could show me varying perspectives on our world.

In fact, both my sister and I married men from very different national and cultural backgrounds. I married Sergey, who hails from Moldova. Jasmine married Dhabih, from Guyana. Our family now encompasses three continents.

Although Sergey and I share a pallid skin tone, serious personality, and—most importantly—our belief in the teachings of Baha’u’llah, what we don’t share has provided huge growth opportunities for both of us. Our hometowns are 5,000 miles apart. Had we been born a generation earlier, we might have never had an opportunity to meet, due to the Iron Curtain. We grew up speaking different languages, eating different food, embedded in dissimilar family structures and cultures. Our contrasting backgrounds provide plenty of material for learning on a daily basis, from the simple—sharing recipes from our home cuisines—to the complex, such as navigating different approaches to communicating.

When we have kids, we’ll teach them the unifying message of Baha’u’llah. But this lesson won’t happen through words alone; their exposure to the wonderful diversity of the human race will start right here, in our home, as they learn to speak both English and Russian, as they bond with their transnational relatives, as we tell them about the roots of the many immigrants who have come together to produce them: Moldovan, Russian, Polish, Jewish, Roma, Iranian, Swiss, Swede, English, Irish, German… They will learn that while heritage matters, what matters more is how they connect with people who do not share their roots, their lifestyles, or their perspectives. I hope they’ll absorb the love Sergey and I have, and as they grow, they’ll perceive the falsity of persistent social divisions—and help to break them down.

I realize that four years of marriage hardly makes me an expert. But here’s my inexpert suggestion for how you can contribute to building a more unified world: if you’re seeking a spouse, consider getting to know people unlike you. Of course, look for a partner who shares your spiritual values, but let this partner be someone who will open your eyes—and your heart—to the wider world. Families are the building blocks of society, and if those fundamental units demonstrate unity in diversity, ultimately, society will too.


 

  1. Abdu’l-Baha, The Writings of Abdu’l-Baha []
  2. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2013/cb13-157.html []
  3. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/05/18/intermarriage-in-the-u-s-50-years-after-loving-v-virginia/ []
  4. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/05/18/intermarriage-in-the-u-s-50-years-after-loving-v-virginia/ []

About the Author

Layli Miron

Layli invites you to read more of her essays on https://layli.net. She lives with her husband, Sergey, in central Pennsylvania, where she is completing a PhD in rhetoric and composition. In moments when she’s not writing, she most enjoys taking strolls with Sergey, during which they admire the region's natural beauty, from its dense woodlands to its abundant groundhogs.

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Discussion 2 Comments

  1. Well, nice text indeed ! I married the man I loved in 1963. It was not the fashion at all in these years where decolonisation was achieved after fights ! I was French, he was Ethiopian. “If at least he would come from one of our colonies, he would be nearer mentally !” was I was said so often.
    People would stop talking, watching us while passing in the streets because I was holding his arm while walking; the empty flats for rent were suddenly rented when my husband was appearing behind me and the smile of the owner disapearing; my family would be wondering what to tell him though he was speaking our language fluently … The reason was this terrible sentence that I heard so often : “You should know that these people don’t think like us”. White people against colored ones in my country,. Later in his country , it was the same : This time colored people against white ones. It was my turn to be the strange foreigner, a mixture of curiosity and fear object that’s all. But we spent 49 years together before he died and we raised together 2 fantastic beautiful and bright girls. Each time that we had any challenge in our lives, yes we had, it has NEVER, really, NEVER NEVER been because of our difference of skins or cultures. The culture ? We learnt and respected from each other. Humor turned the differences of each in some good laughs. Color ? It NEVER crossed our minds even when upset. Problems ? We had some for a simple reason : both were sure to be right at the same moment. I could have married a primary school neighbour with the same ego, it would have had to cross the same bridges. Thanks God , we kept along the secret magic mixture : love for each other, using it with its different facets appearing on different aspects through the different ages and different situations.
    While a child, I use to love to jump from one stone to another while in the middle of beautiful but nervous water in rapid torrents. Becoming a Baha’i at youth, I have been able to keep enjoying to escape the gurgling waters and stay standing on the rocks of the Writings all life long. I am glad that I could share the game with my husband until I was obliged to stay on the side, both my feet on the grass. It has been worth it.

  2. Francoise, thank you so much for sharing the beautiful story of your marriage! Your success in the relationship, despite the barriers of skin color and culture that others perceived, surely inspired many observers to rethink their prejudices. As you write, “love for each other” is the “magic mixture”–reminds me of these words of Abdu’l-Baha: “Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble and there is always time.”

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