Advancing the discourse of gender equality as part of Interfaith Harmony Week

How does our understanding – that the true nature of our reality is spiritual– shape our approach towards advancing the equality of men and women?

On 6 February 2017, together with the Religions for Peace UK Women of Faith Network, the UK Baha’i Community hosted an evening of joyful and reflective devotions and discussions at the UK National Baha’i Centre on the theme of gender equality, as part of the global observance of Interfaith Harmony Week.

Individuals from the Baha’i, Brahma Kumaris, Christian, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Zoroastrian communities came together to share prayers and readings from the world religions, in what one participant described as a “practice for the spiritual well-being of the community”.

Noor and Tom Bell, a married couple from the Baha’i community, opened the evening by singing a Baha’i prayer for handmaidens and shared in their welcome the words of Abdu’l-Baha: “I am happy to be present at a gathering such as this, assembled together to listen to a Divine Message. If you could see with the eye of truth, great waves of spirituality would be visible to you in this place. The power of the Holy Spirit is here for all. Praise be to God that your hearts are inspired with Divine fervour! Your souls are as waves on the sea of the spirit; although each individual is a distinct wave, the ocean is one, all are united in God.”

The friends then broke out into smaller groups where questions on the theme of advancing the equality of women and men were explored and ideas and concepts were shared and reflected upon. Amongst others, the discussions explored the role of education in advancing equality, the recognition that gender inequality fundamentally hinders human progress, and that men too will be held back from manifesting their full potential unless and until the reality of the equality between women and men is fully established and attained.

Reflecting on the great strides that still need to be made in advancing the equality of women and men, Tom Bell reminded those present of the words of the Universal House of Justice, that “Small steps, if they are regular and rapid, add up to a great distance travelled”.  Ravinder Kaur Nijjar, Chair of the Religions for Peace UK Women of Faith Network, as part of her closing comments said that, “A first step towards equality lies in educating ourselves spiritually, and recognising the Divine light in each other.”

As part of the evening, an exhibition titled ‘Restoring Dignity’ was on display, portraying the various faith traditions and reflecting on the role of women in each faith.