In this new and wondrous dispensation the veils of superstition have been torn asunder and the prejudices of eastern peoples stand condemned. Among certain nations of the East, music was considered reprehensible, but in this new age the Manifest Light hath, in His holy Tablets, specifically proclaimed that music, sung or played, is spiritual food for soul and heart. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 112.
If you went to the U2 concert at the AccorHotel Arena in Paris last Monday night, along with 20,000 of your besties, or even if you saw it on television from anywhere in the world, you took part in something truly remarkable. Much more than just another rock concert, this performance used the power of music to spread the truth of the oneness of religion.
It started to happen when U2 played its moving anthems of peace, equality and liberty with passion and force. The band’s Paris concerts, originally scheduled to begin the day after the November 13 Paris attacks, took on a new, symbolic importance in their defiant return.
Bono carried the momentum along when he talked in French and English, between songs, about the tragedy of the Paris terror attacks. He said “We are all Parisians.” He talked about how terrorism could not stop music. He said we had to transmute fear into love.
The fervor and intensity in the arena ramped up even further as the band played their iconic song “Pride: In the Name of Love,” about Martin Luther King, Jr. and other freedom advocates. The anthemic song paid tribute to the 130 people who died in the Paris attacks by showing each of their names on a huge video screen, juxtaposed with the symbols of peace and love.
The crowd roared, obviously inspired by the solidarity they felt.
Then Bono stunned everyone in the venue when he boldly said “We stand with those whose lives have been torn apart by an ideology that is a perversion of the beautiful religion of Islam.”
He said “As far as I know, Islam means ‘surrender.’” Then he asked the crowd to extend their sympathy and prayers, “As hard as it may be,” to the families and relatives of the terrorists themselves.
That unifying moment recalled U2’s concerts after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States and in the wake of the 2005 London attacks, when Bono donned a “Co-Exist” headband and, in a plea for religious unity, chanted “Jesus, Jew, Muhammad, it’s true. All sons of Abraham. Father Abraham, speak to your sons. Tell them ‘No More!’”
For Baha’is, Bono’s assertion has a special level of insight, not only into the progeny of Abraham, but into the progressive connectedness of all Faiths:
…the descendents of Abraham received the special blessing that all of the Prophets of the House of Israel were raised up from among their ranks. This is a blessing that God bestowed upon that lineage. Moses, through both His father and His mother; Christ, through His mother; Muhammad; The Bab, and all the prophets and Holy Ones of Israel belong to that lineage. Baha’u’llah, too, is a lineal descendant of Abraham, for Abraham had other sons besides Ishmael and Isaac who in those days emigrated to the regions of Persia and Afghanistan, and the Blessed Beauty [Baha’u’llah] is one of their descendants. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 246-247.
Then came the finale, an inspirational musical crescendo when the audience and band members sang at the tops of their voices, in a deep resolve that love, joy and music would triumph over fear.
A little more than a hundred years ago in Paris, the city of hearts, Abdu’l-Baha sounded the unifying call of the Baha’i Faith, now broadcast around the world:
All the Prophets of God came for love of this one great aim.
Look how Abraham strove to bring faith and love among the people; how Moses tried to unite the people by sound laws; how the Lord Christ suffered unto death to bring the light of love and truth into a darkened world; how Muhammad sought to bring unity and peace between the various uncivilized tribes among whom he dwelt. And last of all, Baha’u’llah has suffered forty years for the same cause — the single noble purpose of spreading love among the children of men — and for the peace and unity of the world the Bab gave up his life.
Thus, strive to follow the example of these Divine Beings, drink from Their fountain, be illumined by Their Light, and to the world be as symbols of the Mercy and Love of God. Be unto the world as rain and clouds of mercy, as suns of truth; be a celestial army, and you shall indeed conquer the city of hearts. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 171-172.
Sometimes it takes shared cultural and emotional experiences like this one to understand how society can actually come together in love, forgiveness, spiritual compassion and unity.