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The Baha’i teachings say that youth can move the world—that young people have a very critical role to play in the development, peace and prosperity of humanity.
A global youth movement, focused on uniting the world and ridding it of its excesses and injustices, is now at work in the world. Young people want a better society no matter where they live. They tend to believe in the unity of all people, and be relatively unburdened by the biases and prejudices of previous generations. They want a peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their peers. Increasingly cosmopolitan and world-minded, many youth no longer pay attention to the borders and barriers of the past. In its recent statement, Toward Prosperity, the Baha’i International Community emphasizes our societal imperative to teach our youngest world citizens that males and females have equal rights and duties to bring about that bright future:
With respect to more formal educational programs, the significance of this stage of life must be borne in mind. Young people are beginning to understand their role in society, in all dimensions of life, including the economic life of their communities. If the rising generations are not merely to labour within an ailing system, but are to gradually contribute to the creation of a flourishing one, key capabilities must be cultivated early.
First, their education must be comprehensive, addressing their burgeoning spiritual, physical, and intellectual powers. A key principle that must be taught from an early age is the oneness of humanity. Within this, the equality of women and men should be emphasized. Young people see the contradictions in the world. Words and concepts alone cannot erase the often harmful messaging assailing them from all quarters. The inclusion of practical components in which boys and girls work shoulder to shoulder to identify challenges in their social environments, and consult on plans to address these, can benefit the entire community. – 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, p. 5.
This does not, the BIC’s statement points out, exclude the older members of any community—in fact, it hands them a golden opportunity, the great bounty of modeling selfless service to others:
Likewise, if they are accompanied by more experienced, trusted members of their communities to carry out acts of service while given the leeway to identify needs and design progressively more complex plans over time, the rising generations are assisted to develop new, healthy patterns of thought and action. – Ibid.
Finally, the BIC’s statement on the role of both women and men emphasizes teaching youth the single most important concept the Baha’i Faith brings to humankind: the oneness of humanity:
From a young age, youth will learn that true leadership is characterized by selfless service, is borne by boys and girls equally, and is achieved through consultation, cooperation, and commitment to long-term action. A key principle that must be taught from an early age is the oneness of humanity. Within this, the equality of women and men should be emphasized. It is the hope of the Baha’i International Community that world leaders will give serious thought not only to how the current economic system can receive more meaningful contributions from women, but also to how the rising generations can be assisted in building a new one. – Ibid.
This ideal—the oneness of humanity, which includes the equality of women and men—asks all people to:
Raise ye a clamour like unto a roaring sea; like a prodigal cloud, rain down the grace of heaven. Lift up your voices and sing out the songs …. Quench ye the fires of war, lift high the banners of peace, work for the oneness of humankind and remember that religion is the channel of love unto all peoples. Be ye aware that the children of men are sheep of God and He their loving Shepherd, that He careth tenderly for all His sheep and maketh them to feed in His own green pastures of grace and giveth them to drink from the wellspring of life. Such is the way of the Lord. Such are His bestowals. Such, from among His teachings, is His precept of the oneness of mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 36.