Eric Farr, a Faiths Act Fellow of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, reflects on the teachings of the Baha’i faith, Thanksgiving and the famine in Africa.
“My God, my Adored One, my King, my Desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee?” So begins a prayer of Bahá’u’lláh that I regularly turn to in moments of gratitude. It expresses what I think is a fairly common feeling among spiritually-minded folk: the feeling of overwhelming gratitude at the bounties and majesty of God, and the absolute impossibility of offering adequate thanks for those bounties and glimpses of divinity.
I’ve tried on a few occasions to thank my parents in some kind of definitive way for all that they’ve given me during my life. They’ve given me everything. They’ve sacrificed their money, their time, their whole being. They’ve given me and my brother and my sister their lives. No matter how much I mean it, no matter how much I explain it and no matter how much they even believe it, I can’t say “thank you” in such a way that actually expresses the degree of thanks or that feels in any way like a fitting response to their generosity. It’s the same word I use when someone passes the salt, for crying out loud.
How much more then are these words inadequate when directed towards God, the Source of all beauty and goodness in the world, who has given me everything, including my life, out of love: “O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee.”
“What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee?” I can’t repay in words the generosity of my parents, let alone of God. All I can do is try my best to offer whatever fleeting moments remain of my life to serving others out of love, furthering beauty and goodness in the world and sharing the gifts that I’ve received. An overwhelming sense of gratefulness should translate into radically generous giving. A time of year dedicated to thankfulness then should be equally dedicated to outpourings of generosity.
The horrific famine in the Horn of Africa should be at the front of our minds this Thanksgiving as the object of sacrificial giving. This giving must take a number of different forms. Abdu’l-Baha has written: “A financier with colossal wealth should not exist whilst near him is a poor man in dire necessity. When we see poverty allowed to reach a condition of starvation it is a sure sign that somewhere we shall find tyranny. Men must bestir themselves in this matter, and no longer delay in altering conditions which bring the misery of grinding poverty to a very large number of the people. The rich must give of their abundance, they must soften their hearts and cultivate a compassionate intelligence, taking thought for those sad ones who suffering from lack of the very necessities of life” (Paris Talks, 153).
There’s obviously a lot going on in that short excerpt, but the connection between tyranny and starvation I find particularly illuminating. At this point in the material development of humanity, there is no reason for starvation to occur except through some form of tyranny. In the Horn, there are structural tyrannies that have contributed to the famine. I’d submit however that at the root of these structural tyrannies lies a tyranny of the self that prevents us from responding appropriately to the injustices we see throughout the world and the moments of gratitude we experience in our daily lives. My thoughts and prayers are with my brothers and sisters in the Horn as I seek to transform my life into one characterized by intense thankfulness, generous and sacrificial giving, and the elimination of tyrannies of all forms.
Please join ONE this Thanksgiving season to raise your voice for those suffering in the Horn of Africa by signing the Feed the Future petition. Help us make this a season of mobilization for those experiencing famine by using ONE’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Guide to take action on the famine in your faith community. Visit the Faith @ ONE page to get started in joining ONE to end famine for good.
Like what you read? Check out the Faiths Act Fellows’ ONE Thanksgiving Interfaith Guide and continue to check the ONE Blog for more stories like these. If you want to write about how your faith inspires you to take action on the Famine in the Horn of Africa this Thanksgiving, get in touch by emailing [email protected] and [email protected].