What if our troubled civilization actually has another, less obvious corollary: a parallel constructive process taking place as old systems crumble?
While the daily events around the world demonstrate growing evidences of injustice, pain, prejudice and decay, a simultaneous process of integration, unity, scientific discovery and social cohesion is also underway. The teachings of the Baha’i Faith explain that the disintegration of old systems and ways of thinking and behaving will make way for the emergence of a new system that focuses on human oneness:
Baha’is are encouraged to see in the revolutionary changes taking place in every sphere of life the interaction of two fundamental processes. One is destructive in nature, while the other is integrative; both serve to carry humanity, each in its own way, along the path leading towards its full maturity. The operation of the former is everywhere apparent—in the vicissitudes that have afflicted time-honoured institutions, in the impotence of leaders at all levels to mend the fractures appearing in the structure of society … Though devastating in their effects, the forces of disintegration tend to sweep away barriers that block humanity’s progress, opening space for the process of integration to draw diverse groups together and disclosing new opportunities for cooperation and collaboration. – The Universal House of Justice, 2 March 2013.
The words of this message, from the democratically-elected administrative body of the Baha’i Faith, are relevant in the ongoing tumult evident worldwide today and can assist people of any Faith.
The simplest way to visualise this process involves thinking of a house laid on a faulty, cracking and crumbling foundation. Why try to keep fixing it? Instead, it will inevitably fail and fall apart. While this happens, we can build a new house with a strong foundation.
This new, solid foundation will last if we build it on the divine spiritual principles—also known as virtues or values—common to all Faiths. Those values include the principles of love, truthfulness, kindness, justice, compassion, integrity, obedience, prayer, open-heartedness, respect for diversity and equality.
In my experience as a peacemaker I have worked primarily in youth empowerment, focusing on helping youth develop and discover the divine qualities latent within them. Each of these principles or qualities are important to the peacebuilding process. I teach equality as one of those indispensable principles. Equality of people of all creeds, colours, nationalities, economic circumstances, religions and genders will one day help humanity recognize its oneness. Baha’is believe that the recognition of the oneness of humanity, the oneness of the divine Creator and the oneness of religion will lead us to the Christ-promised kingdom of God on Earth. However, this does not just happen. It requires ongoing, dedicated action.
The topic of equality is immense, but I’d like to focus here on the Baha’i principle of the equality of women and men as an essential requisite to peace and human unity.
Baha’u’llah explained that for humanity to progress further, the full equality of women and men needs to be realized. This essential requisite for progress does not imply sameness, but recognition of the incredible capacities of women that need to be acknowledged and exercised in order to bring balance to the world. The Baha’i teachings explain:
The world of humanity is possessed of two wings—the male and the female. So long as the two wings are not equivalent in strength the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as a man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment … As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs …
The world in the past has been ruled by force and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the scales are already shifting, force is losing its weight, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more properly balanced. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 2, p. 4.
Humanity cannot progress any further until the voices of women are heard and their wisdom and guidance becomes part of consultations, policy and action. The challenge we all have as peacemakers is how to empower women and give them opportunities to be heard. This will require effort by both men and women.