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International Migrants Day: What If We Opened Our Borders?

David Langness | Dec 18, 2019

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

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David Langness | Dec 18, 2019

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

The Baha’i teachings call on the leaders of every country in the world to unite, disarm and open their national borders:

God has created the world as one – the boundaries are marked out by man. … All are of one family, one race; all are human beings. Differences as to the partition of lands should not be the cause of separation among the people. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 55.

… the surface of the earth is one native land. Every one can live in any spot on the terrestrial globe. Therefore all the world is man’s birthplace. … No wise and just person will acknowledge these imaginary distinctions. Every limited area which we call our native country we regard as our motherland, whereas the terrestrial globe is the motherland of all, and not any restricted area. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 300.

This concept of world unity and global citizenship – that “the terrestrial globe is the motherland of all” – forms the central social principle of the Baha’i Faith:

O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention amongst you. Then will the effulgence of the world’s great Luminary envelop the whole earth, and its inhabitants become the citizens of one city, and the occupants of one and the same throne. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 217.

On December 18th every year, the United Nations observes International Migrants Day, to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants. On December 18 in 1990, the U.N. adopted Resolution 45/158, the international convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families. That resolution followed the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates, in Articles 13 and 14, that:

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

Unfortunately, the world’s various national legal systems often don’t recognize these basic human rights, instead closing their borders, building physical barriers or restricting migration into their countries. That unaligned, uncoordinated welter of conflicting national policies has created a worldwide immigration crisis in the past several decades, and today almost 70 million migrants and displaced people have become stateless refugees as a result – which amounts to approximately one percent of all the human beings on Earth, half of them children. Almost all of those refugees and migrants have left their homes involuntarily, due to wars, famine, climate change or economic pressures.

So what would happen, many scientists and researchers have asked, if countries opened their borders?

Anti-immigrant hardliners claim that opening national borders could lower the wages of native citizens, erode national security, and overburden the social safety net – but many studies have determined that those primarily economic fears do not come to pass when borders actually open. Michael Clemens, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C., conducted one such meta-study, which found that:

The gains from eliminating migration barriers dwarf – by an order of a magnitude or two – the gains from eliminating other types of barriers. For the elimination of trade policy barriers and capital flow barriers, the estimated gains amount to less than a few percent of world GDP. For labor mobility barriers, the estimated gains are often in the range of 50–150 percent of world GDP.Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?

Economists estimate that world GDP could be increased substantially – potentially even doubled, as Dr. Clemens’ study indicates – by implementing low-barrier national boundaries. This finding means that the current inhumane practices around national borders, especially when they limit the mobility of people, goods and labor, severely hold back our collective global prosperity. As the Secretary-General of the U.N. António Guterres recently noted:

Migration is a powerful driver of economic growth, dynamism and understanding. It allows millions of people to seek new opportunities, benefiting communities of origin and destination alike.

So today, in observance of International Migrants Day, you might want to do all you can to welcome the people from other countries to your country, and to help reduce the barriers that prevent the right of freedom of movement of migrants. After all, every human being belongs to the human family. Baha’is believe that lowering the barriers to migration will help humanity build:

… a world community in which the fury of a capricious and militant nationalism will have been transmuted into an abiding consciousness of world citizenship … – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 40.

When that “abiding consciousness of world citizenship” takes effect, the Baha’i teachings say:

The oneness of the kingdom of humanity will supplant the banner of conquest, and all communities of the earth will gather under its protection. No nation with separate and restricted boundaries – such as Persia, for instance – will exist. The United States of America will be known only as a name. Germany, France, England, Turkey, Arabia – all these various nations will be welded together in unity. When the people of the future are asked, “To which nationality do you belong?” the answer will be, “To the nationality of humanity. … The people of the future will not say, “I belong to the nation of England, France or Persia”; for all of them will be citizens of a universal nationality – the one family, the one country, the one world of humanity – and then these wars, hatreds and strifes will pass away. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 18.

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  • Claudia Phillips
    Dec 30, 2019
    This is a very timely article. I look forward to a time when world citizens are free to go anywhere in our country (the earth).
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