Last week, in honor of Nelson Mandela, a nine-foot bronze statue of the former president of South Africa was unveiled, facing the Houses of Parliament in London. This monument commemorates not just his contribution toward ending apartheid and his stance against all forms of racism in the world, but it also represents London's stand to wipe out racism.
Individual hatred and social prejudice that mistakenly assumes one race is superior to another is one form of racism. Prejudice and hatred can also extend to people of different cultures, including the customs, language, and lifestyle of a whole society.
Even within cultures there can be prejudices based on family background, place of birth, or other personal details. Sometimes racism arrogantly argues that "my" culture's way of living, behaving, and thinking is the only right way to live, and everyone else must conform to it.
As an Iranian living in the West, I've had to overcome some of these barriers to racial freedom. I travel a lot with my work, and each time I used to leave London, going through Heathrow's ultrasensitive security checks, my country of origin would cause some concern. Routinely, I was pulled to one side and searched thoroughly.
I became so accustomed to these searches that I used to arrive at the airport extra early to allow for the checks I knew lay ahead. Of course, I appreciate the alertness and care of airport security personnel. Their work contributes to the safety of us all. But to be continually stopped because of my nationality was troubling to me.
One day I realized that I could pray about this situation – that I didn't need to passively put up with it anymore. The purpose of my travel was only good, and my intentions were honest. I could mentally make my own spiritual protest – to begin to see my true spiritual identity and everybody else's also.
The foundation of my protest was this: Racism dishonors the Bible's basis of creation, which is that man, including male and female, is made in the image of God (see Gen. 1:27). Also, the New Testament proclaims: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). These two statements make clear that man is not material, a mortal who practices prejudice or is victimized by it.
As God's spiritual offspring, you and I are good, perfect, loving, filled with compassion, intelligent. If we could see ourselves as we truly are, we would also be able to see others as they truly are.
With these ideas in thought, I decided that instead of noticing someone by his or her culture or race, I would salute God's perfect spiritual creation in everyone I met. I would acknowledge them with reverence as children of God, all belonging to one spiritual race with one Father-Mother God. I would see each one, including myself, as created by God, spiritual and perfect.
This prayer had a most wonderful outcome. People stopped asking me about my nationality but noticed instead the qualities I expressed. Best of all was that when I went through security checks at airports, I was no longer pulled over to the side and searched. I walked through the security gate just as most people did.
You could say I had discovered that I was, as Mary Baker Eddy put it, a "citizen of the world," of one race and culture. She wrote, quoting, in part, Romans 8:21: "Citizens of the world, accept the 'glorious liberty of the children of God,' and be free! This is your divine right" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 227).
Each of us has the same right to be free of harassment and fear, and we gain this freedom as we think of others – and ourselves – with love, not hate, in our hearts.