Exploring Baha’i beliefs of equality for all

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DISCUSSING one of the core principles of the Baha’i Faith – that men and women are equals in the eyes of God – Isle of Skye resident Pat McNicol takes to the An Lanntair stage next weekend.

Pat’s talk continues the successful monthly lecture series presented this year by the Lewis Baha’i Faith community in celebration of the centenary of the visit to Scotland of Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i Faith.

“The Baha’i message brought to Scotland was one of unity, proclaiming that all the people of the world belonged to one human family and were the children of God and promised that universal peace would ultimately prevail in the world,” Pat explains.

“One of the essential prerequisites to peace and justice in the world, according to Baha’i scripture is the realisation of the equality of the sexes.”

Exploring this now well-familiar concept, Pat’s presentation will touch upon some of the areas associated with the advancement of women in the last 100 years and consider the areas where equality is yet to be realised in a material sense.

“Primarily, I shall be looking at the concept of equality as it is presented in the Baha’i Writings, where it is clearly and unequivocally presented as a spiritual truth,” continues Pat.

Questioning what has prevented this from becoming reality in the past and, in certain areas of life, to the present day, Pat comments: “On the one hand, the inequality has been caused by the denial in the past of equal access to education, opportunities and privileges enjoyed exclusively by men, and on the other, it has been perpetuated by a deep-seated view of women as being inherently inferior to men and the stereotypical attitude of societal roles with regard to both men and women.”

The Baha’i Faith describes that such issues need to be addressed before true equality can be realised. Expanding, Pat continues: “The Baha’i stance takes the concept of equality a step further by stating that until men acquire those qualities of loving kindness, compassion and tenderness of heart traditionally viewed as essentially ‘feminine’ qualities they also will not achieve their full potential.”

Born in Perth, Pat moved to Skye in 1981 to start up a craft retail and sub post office business – as equal partners – with her husband.

However, in 2004 she decided on a change of direction, working for the next five years for a project which helped unemployed parents build skills and confidence to enter education, training and employment.

“Helping individuals to achieve their true potential is something which has always been close to my heart and is a sentiment which lies at the core of this presentation on gender equality,” Pat says.

“What is truly remarkable is that the concept of equality of the sexes – so familiar to us nowadays – was first expounded by the Founder of the Baha’i Faith 150 years ago at a time and place where it was seen as both radical and revolutionary in the extreme.

“We may have a long way to go yet in achieving gender equality across the world but there’s no denying that much has already been achieved since the Revelation of Baha’u’llah,” she adds. “And as more people acquire a truer and deeper understanding of the spiritual nature of this concept, we hope to see the rate of change speeding up!”

Pat McNicol’s talk ‘Equality of Men and Women’ takes place at An Lanntair arts centre, Stornoway, on Saturday, October 27th, 7-9pm.