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The scientific community has long wrestled with this important question: are conflict and aggression an inescapable part of human nature?
Are we doomed, as a species, to continually do battle with each other? Do we have genetic and behavioral traits that will always make us violent beings?
No, most scientists now agree. An eminent group of behavioral scientists met in Spain in 1986, and after conferring and sharing their extensive research, issued The Seville Statement—which concluded that no scientific basis exists for the belief that humans are naturally or biologically warlike, violent and aggressive (you can read the entire Seville Statement here).
Yes, we have had an extensive history of conflict and warfare, the Baha’i teachings point out—but we’re not doomed to repeating that history, if we encourage and allow women to “participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world:”
The most momentous question of this day is international peace and arbitration, and universal peace is impossible without universal suffrage. Children are educated by the women. The mother bears the troubles and anxieties of rearing the child, undergoes the ordeal of its birth and training. Therefore, it is most difficult for mothers to send to the battlefield those upon whom they have lavished such love and care. Consider a son reared and trained twenty years by a devoted mother. What sleepless nights and restless, anxious days she has spent! Having brought him through dangers and difficulties to the age of maturity, how agonizing then to sacrifice him upon the battlefield! Therefore, the mothers will not sanction war nor be satisfied with it. So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease; for woman will be the obstacle and hindrance to it. This is true and without doubt. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 134-135.
In this week’s new statement to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Baha’i International Community points out that reimagining “the dynamics that… define the relationships of power” within our global civilization can lead us to the oneness of humanity and elimination of gender prejudice and oppression:
The prevailing economic and geopolitical orders are characterized by conflict and aggression to such an extent that many have succumbed to the view that these qualities represent inescapable features of human nature. While humans are capable of violence, selfishness, cowardice, and competition, they have also repeatedly demonstrated their ability to be kind, to prefer others over themselves, to carry out acts of valour at immense personal cost, and to cooperate when competition is the norm. How much more would these noble tendencies prevail if governments allocated substantial resources to cultivating the higher nature of their citizens, focusing vigorous learning processes around how the latent spiritual and moral powers of their inhabitants can be developed and released? What is more, the dynamics that have come to define relationships of power must be reimagined in the light of a genuine understanding of the oneness of humanity in order for all people to have an opportunity to lead meaningful lives. Understandably, changes of this magnitude will be hard won, requiring vision and sacrifice, and the long-term commitment of the leaders and citizens of the world. – Toward Prosperity: The Role of Women and Men in Building a Flourishing World Civilization, The Baha’i International Community’s Contribution to the 61st United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, pp. 2-3.
When we do finally reimagine those power dynamics, Baha’is believe, it will eventually lead to the full equality of the sexes. That equality, when completely realized in human society, will then help create a more balanced expression of the human character, leading us to an era of prosperity and peace:
If, in the future, women like unto men are given the franchise, assuredly they shall prevent the occurrence of war, whereas otherwise the matter will be difficult … A mighty power is necessary in order to make an effective opposition—otherwise it will be exceedingly difficult. I pray God that the world of women may be assisted and confirmed for their purpose is Universal Peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, pp. 39-40.