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Justice Demands Universal Participation

Shadi Toloui-Wallace | Jun 26, 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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Shadi Toloui-Wallace | Jun 26, 2019

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

Feeling disillusioned or hopeless with the current state of the world? Many people share that feeling, because the injustices that prevail in society can overwhelm us sometimes. 

We feel burdened with the lack of harmony and unity that exists between abilities, genders, races, religions and nations. We lose hope when corruption, conflict and inequity dominate our interactions as individuals and nations. We despair over war and injustice. 

Many of the problems that exist in society are rooted in deep systemic issues that seem intractable or unresolvable in our lifetime. So instead of addressing our deepest problems, we focus on acquiring material possessions to distract us or give us a sense of safety, rather than dealing with the current issues at hand. We turn away from the world’s issues, and withdraw our talents and faculties from the process of finding and applying the solutions.

Baha’is however, see all the disunity and injustice as part of an evolutionary progression toward a new world order, founded on the teachings of Baha’u’llah, which will ultimately unite and renew the fundamental teachings of all religions and unify the races and nations. The turmoil we all witness now, the Baha’i teachings say, will help make those future changes possible:

The long ages of infancy and childhood, through which the human race had to pass, have receded into the background. Humanity is now experiencing the commotions invariably associated with the most turbulent stage of its evolution, the stage of adolescence, when the impetuosity of youth and its vehemence reach their climax, and must gradually be superseded by the calmness, the wisdom, and the maturity that characterize the stage of manhood. Then will the human race reach that stature of ripeness which will enable it to acquire all the powers and capacities upon which its ultimate development must depend. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 202.

Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah’s teachings will bring about the social and spiritual transformation society so desperately seeks:

This is the Day in which God’s most excellent favors have been poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness. It behoveth them to cleave to whatsoever will, in this Day, be conducive to the exaltation of their stations, and to the promotion of their best interests. Happy are those whom the all-glorious Pen was moved to remember, and blessed are those men whose names, by virtue of Our inscrutable decree, We have preferred to conceal.

Beseech ye the one true God to grant that all men may be graciously assisted to fulfil that which is acceptable in Our sight. Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things unseen. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 7.

Baha’u’llah’s emphasis on “all the peoples of the world” and “that all men may be graciously assisted” acts as a humble reminder that the work of the renewal of the world requires the participation of every member of human society. Because that work involves nothing less than the unification of the human race and the recognition of everyone’s skills, talents, and capacities, we must work through our differences, put away our biases and unify our efforts, if we are to receive God’s assistance in the creation of a new, just world: 

Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 202.

Regardless of ability, gender, race, religion, class or national identity, the Baha’i teachings say, everyone has the potential to contribute in their own unique way to the progress of their neighborhood and the meaningful transformation of society as a whole. Put simply, no one person or group can do this alone—we need you. The unification of the world requires the participation of every living soul. 

In the past, we may have expected that humanity’s social and spiritual transformation and progress could only be achieved by a certain segment of society. We might have believed that an individual with no political power could not accomplish much. But the work is too great a responsibility, the period is so critical, and the time so short! 

We need every human being to recognize their innate potential and capacity to contribute to the transformation of their communities. We need to make sure that each individual has the opportunity to develop their capacities and talents, and has a chance to apply them in the field of service to all humankind. 

Every member of society has the responsibility to nurture the creativity of others, because there are so many ways to serve. Every skill is needed and valuable to this process, and can be offered in various degrees and capacities. Like a mirror, every person has the potential to reflect the knowledge of the Creator, and no one should be deprived of expressing this knowledge, in whichever way they can and in accordance with his or her capacity:

From the exalted source, and out of the essence of His favor and bounty He hath entrusted every created thing with a sign of His knowledge, so that none of His creatures may be deprived of its share in expressing, each according to its capacity and rank, this knowledge. This sign is the mirror of His beauty in the world of creation. The greater the effort exerted for the refinement of this sublime and noble mirror, the more faithfully will it be made to reflect the glory of the names and attributes of God, and reveal the wonders of His signs and knowledge. Every created thing will be enabled (so great is this reflecting power) to reveal the potentialities of its pre-ordained station, will recognize its capacity and limitations, and will testify to the truth that “He, verily, is God; there is none other God besides Him.” – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 262.

So when you’re out there in the world, feeling hopeless and frustrated, maybe a bit disillusioned with our lack of progress, dig deep into the well of your soul, and reflect on your own talents and capacities to transform your community. Then take it one step further, by having faith in the capacity of every person you cross paths with, whether they’re your friend’s kids, or the homeless person down the street, or your elderly neighbor. Nurture their talents; they will undoubtedly have some valuable skill they can offer to the social and spiritual transformation of society. Help them find a way to serve with those talents because, let’s face it, we need every living soul to play their part in this vitally important process:

The perpetuation of ignorance is a most grievous form of oppression; it reinforces the many walls of prejudice that stand as barriers to the realization of the oneness of humankind, at once the goal and operating principle of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation. Access to knowledge is the right of every human being, and participation in its generation, application and diffusion a responsibility that all must shoulder in the great enterprise of building a prosperous world civilization—each individual according to his or her talents and abilities. Justice demands universal participation. – The Universal House of Justice, To the Baha’is of the World, April 2010.

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