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Fighting Social Ills by Building Unity

Craig Turner | Dec 27, 2019

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Craig Turner | Dec 27, 2019

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Unfortunately, contemporary social and racial justice discourse often focuses on symptoms rather than the core illness itself. 

The Baha’i teachings say that the greatest sickness facing humankind – disunity – results in multiple destructive symptoms, such as prejudice, bigotry, racism and war. The human suffering, degradation, hatred and violence that arise from these symptoms underline the need to apply a cure to the real cause, not just address its multiple results.

Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, established the principle of unity as the primary medicine for healing the manifold ills of the world:

The well-being of mankind, its peace and security are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. …

Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He Who is the Day Star of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 286-287.

If a person who cannot walk due to a broken leg tries to walk again without seeking medical help, he will only worsen the condition of his leg, and that will delay healing. So what possible remedy can we apply to the rampant disease of disunity? Where can we go to seek the help we need? The Baha’i teachings suggest consulting the Divine Physician:

The Prophets of God should be regarded as physicians whose task is to foster the well-being of the world and its peoples, that, through the spirit of oneness, they may heal the sickness of a divided humanity. … they are the only ones who can claim to have understood the patient and to have correctly diagnosed its ailments. No man, however acute his perception, can ever hope to reach the heights which the wisdom and understanding of the Divine Physician have attained. Little wonder, then, if the treatment prescribed by the physician in this day should not be found to be identical with that which he prescribed before. How could it be otherwise when the ills affecting the sufferer necessitate at every stage of his sickness a special remedy? In like manner, every time the Prophets of God have illumined the world with the resplendent radiance of the Day Star of Divine knowledge, they have invariably summoned its peoples to embrace the light of God through such means as best befitted the exigencies of the age in which they appeared. They were thus able to scatter the darkness of ignorance, and to shed upon the world the glory of their own knowledge. It is towards the inmost essence of these Prophets, therefore, that the eye of every man of discernment must be directed, inasmuch as their one and only purpose hath always been to guide the erring, and give peace to the afflicted …. These are not days of prosperity and triumph. The whole of mankind is in the grip of manifold ills. Strive, therefore, to save its life through the wholesome medicine which the almighty hand of the unerring Physician hath prepared. – Ibid., pp. 80-81.

Baha’u’llah’s new Faith promises to profoundly effect the world. In fact, Baha’is believe that its principles and teachings will ultimately revolutionize the life of humanity:

The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System – the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed. – Ibid., p. 136.

The Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected administrative body for the Baha’i world, addressed the process of this spiritual and social transformation:

… most people have no clear concept of the sort of world they wish to build, nor how to go about building it. Even those who are concerned to improve conditions are therefore reduced to combating every apparent evil that takes their attention. Willingness to fight against evils, whether in the form of conditions or embodied in evil men, has thus become for most people the touchstone by which they judge a person’s moral worth. Baha’is, on the other hand, know the goal they are working towards and know what they must do, step by step, to attain it. Their whole energy is directed towards the building of the good, a good which has such a positive strength that in the face of it the multitude of evils – which are in essence negative – will fade away and be no more. To enter into the quixotic tournament of demolishing one by one the evils in the world is, to a Baha’i, a vain waste of time and effort. His whole life is directed towards proclaiming the Message of Baha’u’llah, reviving the spiritual life of his fellowmen, uniting them in a divinely created World Order, and then, as the Order grows in strength and influence, he will see the power of that Message transforming the whole human society and progressively solving the problems and removing the injustices which have so long bedevilled the world. – The Universal House of Justice, from a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Italy, 19 November 1974.

As members of the human family, Baha’is believe we must concern ourselves with opposing and eliminating the evils in the world: racism, sexism, class divisions, economic injustice, war, environmental destruction, and others. We can do so by being advocates for justice, while devoting ourselves wholly to building a new world based on principles of unity. These evils – all the collective symptoms of disunity – can most effectively be opposed and eliminated through concentrating our energies on the underlying illness afflicting humankind and applying its overall remedy. 

In the Baha’i Faith, the Universal House of Justice provides step-by-step guidance for learning and action in communities, towns and cities all over the world. In this way, every inhabitant of every community has the opportunity to help build a just, peaceful and unified world.

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  • Mark David Vinzens
    Dec 27, 2019
    The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
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