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Stories about Abdu’l-Baha for children are light upon light and I am delighted to know about a new publication called Loving All the World that was put together by Barbara Johnson. It contains stories by a score of talented writers and works by a plethora of skillful artists. It was a joy to hear from Barbara about this new book.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I had the privilege of learning about Baha’u’llah when I was a youth deeply committed to the principles of justice, equality, and the supreme need for world peace. One summer when I was working at a children’s camp, I started to read Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, which someone had given me. That was the only book I had that summer, so I read it and read it and read it. In this wonderful book I found answers to all my questions about peace and justice along with very clear statements about the oneness of humanity, the oneness of religion, and a path to spiritual development for individuals and for our planet. I jumped in and never looked back!
I’ve been fortunate to grow up in a large and loving family, to get to know fabulous human beings from all over the planet, as well as the privilege of serving at the Maxwell International Baha’i School and Louhelen Baha’i School, and working professionally in the field of teacher preparation.
Can you tell us a little bit about your book?
True stories about the soul-stirring life and powerful actions of Abdu’l-Baha come alive in our book, Loving All the World. I’m especially excited that some of the stories that are told in this book for the very first time in English. For example, did you know that Abdu’l-Baha carried a message on horseback from Baha’u’llah to an army general at the age of seven, or that He was already giving away His warm winter cloak while still very young?
In these stories, Abdu’l-Baha embraces humanity’s diverse peoples and personalities, upends racial prejudice and gender stereotypes, and puts into practice the love that builds a world of peace, justice, and joy. The stories have been meticulously researched and are presented in historically and culturally accurate detail. The book’s title, Abdu’l-Baha: Loving All the World, shows our purpose in creating the book. We want everyone to love all the world and show this love through action.
The book is a collaborative project. A dozen accomplished authors crafted the stories in diverse styles, and 20 artists bring the stories to life through their art. This is a hardcover book, made to last, and intended to inspire children and families to think for themselves and use their power to change the world.
You can see some of the stories and art at our website.
What inspired you to write it? What is it about?
Abdu’l-Baha’s extraordinary life extended from 1844 to 1921, and as we approached the centenary of His passing, we were inspired to share these fabulous stories. In this age when all people are called to make their mark in the world, we wanted to tell stories that emphasize the powerful role of individuals in creating a better world. We aim to inspire children to see all people as one human family, engage in service that uplifts themselves and others, and work for peace in their own communities.
These themes are inspired by the encouragement of Abdu’l-Baha “to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for peace and universal brotherhood.” With these powerful words and the example of Abdu’l-Baha, people all over the world have dedicated themselves to these ideals. We share some of their stories too. It is our honour to be in this process with you as we keep learning together, striving together, and having fun showing our love for all the world.
What was something you learned in the process of writing this book?
The creative team for this book features dozens of volunteers—authors, illustrators, researchers, editors, and designers—who offer their work as a gift to the children of the world. The dedication of these wonderful souls shows the power of unified diversity because each author, each artist, and all other collaborators bring their own unique gifts to this process. All of these contributions express the individuality of the person while also enriching the project as a whole.
Who is its audience?
Our book, Loving All the World, was created to engage children, families, and communities with resources to promote justice, unity, service, and ultimately peace in all the world.
What do you hope your readers will take away with them long after they’ve finished reading?
We hope that their hearts will be filled with joy and a sense of connection with Abdu’l-Baha, as well as the power of unified, diversified action. We hope that readers will feel inspired to make their mark in the world, drawing on their own God-given talents. So love and action—that’s our aim!
Thank you, Barbara, for taking the time to share this with us!
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