The following is the transcript of a talk given on October 16th and 17th, 1911 in Paris, France by Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas, son of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet/Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, of which I have been a member my entire adult life.
As you read, I think you may be struck by how familiar is the antipathy Abdu’l-Bahá describes—the divisive tribal sentiments he is lovingly telling his audience to relinquish.
This is an age-old aspect of human life and, therefore, this is an ageless message. It is a message given by all the Emissaries of God from Krishna to Christ to Bahá’u’lláh. We have heard it, perhaps without realizing we have heard it—certainly, without realizing its import, which Abdu’l-Bahá points out toward the end of the talk.
Here is Abdu’l-Bahá on the subject of love and kindness …
When a man turns his face to God he finds sunshine everywhere. All men are his brothers. Let not conventionality cause you to seem cold and unsympathetic when you meet strange people from other countries. Do not look at them as though you suspected them of being evil-doers, thieves and boors. You think it necessary to be very careful, not to expose yourselves to the risk of making acquaintance with such, possibly, undesirable people.
I ask you not to think only of yourselves. Be kind to the strangers, whether come they from Turkey, Japan, Persia, Russia, China or any other country in the world. Help to make them feel at home; find out where they are staying, ask if you may render them any service; try to make their lives a little happier.
In this way, even if, sometimes, what you at first suspected should be true, still go out of your way to be kind to them—this kindness will help them to become better. After all, why should any foreign people be treated as strangers?
Let those who meet you know, without your proclaiming the fact, that you are indeed a Bahá’í.
Put into practice the Teaching of Bahá’u’lláh, that of kindness to all nations. Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.
Oh, you of the Western nations, be kind to those who come from the Eastern world to sojourn among you. Forget your conventionality when you speak with them; they are not accustomed to it. To Eastern peoples this demeanour seems cold, unfriendly. Rather let your manner be sympathetic. Let it be seen that you are filled with universal love. When you meet a Persian or any other stranger, speak to him as to a friend; if he seems to be lonely try to help him, give him of your willing service; if he be sad console him, if poor succour him, if oppressed rescue him, if in misery comfort him. In so doing you will manifest that not in words only, but in deed and in truth, you think of all men as your brothers.
What profit is there in agreeing that universal friendship is good, and talking of the solidarity of the human race as a grand ideal? Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless. The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world’s misery would very soon be changed into comfort.
A man who does great good, and talks not of it, is on the way to perfection. The man who has accomplished a small good and magnifies it in his speech is worth very little.
If I love you, I need not continually speak of my love—you will know without any words. On the other hand if I love you not, that also will you know—and you would not believe me, were I to tell you in a thousand words, that I loved you.
People make much profession of goodness, multiplying fine words because they wish to be thought greater and better than their fellows, seeking fame in the eyes of the world. Those who do most good use fewest words concerning their actions.
The children of God do the works without boasting, obeying His laws.
My hope for you is that you will ever avoid tyranny and oppression; that you will work without ceasing till justice reigns in every land, that you will keep your hearts pure and your hands free from unrighteousness.
This is what the near approach to God requires from you, and this is what I expect of you.”
— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Paris Talks