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From a distance, we can see that a progressive evolution of justice has taken place across the centuries.
Equitable and just relationships have evolved, keeping pace with the increase of social complexity. Before any codification of laws, in the earliest indigenous communities, where a consciousness of oneness prevailed, oral tradition sufficed.
As communities grew, expanded, and interacted, and a consciousness of duality emerged, greater measures were needed to separate right from wrong. Yet, with each passing millennium, there has been greater certainty about what an act of injustice. The arrow of time carries with it ever more equitable and unifying social contracts.
The Baha’i writings affirm:
Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established … A world, growing to maturity, must … recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships … We hold firmly the conviction that all human beings have been created “to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.” – The Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, pp. 13-15.
Now, as our conscious evolution makes us more aware than ever of the urgent need for an “unshakable consciousness of the oneness of mankind” (Ibid., p. 10), it is more apparent that the challenge for achieving justice in our time is to turn toward oneness, realize the consciousness of the oneness of humanity, and allow justice to become a force for unity.
A global system of unitive justice is the purest reflection of absolute unity possible on this earth.
If we look closely at the world’s sacred traditions, they reveal a common thread of unity running throughout their core. This is most evident in the Golden Rule, a universal expression at the heart of all spiritual truth—known, understood, and accepted worldwide as an essential ethical and moral principle.
Yet only when looked at chronologically, or progressively, does it even become evident that The Golden Rule is about justice. In all sacred expressions, from ancient to modern and East to West, we find a slight variation of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Only the most recent, from Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, makes the real context of the Golden Rule clear:
If thine eyes be turned toward justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 64.
The Golden Rule not only represents compassion in action, but also justice in action. It now needs to be seen as the basis for a system of global justice founded upon both unconditional love and equitable and just relationships. Our understanding of justice appears to evolve not only as social interactions become more complex, but also through the release of spiritual energies in each age.
A universal system of global justice—a standard of equity and fairness implying no preferential treatment and ultimate regard for the welfare of humanity as a single community—is the one means capable of creating global harmony, and a prerequisite for the realization of the promise of world peace.
A human rights approach to establishing justice as the framework for human relationships has been playing an effective role, as it establishes and maintains “rights” for all human beings by guaranteeing a moral foundation of mutual and equitable trusteeship between all individuals and disallowing both a rampant individualism and the elevation of the state or any group above others.
Yet only when the world’s leaders grasp the principle of the oneness of humanity and make this the operational principle on all levels of society, with the structures of governance reshaped to reflect this, will the world’s major injustices–like genocide, war and terrorism–be eliminated.
Living according to the principle of the oneness of humanity, which requires laying aside self-interests, serving the common good, and contributing to the advancement of oppressed peoples, is a prerequisite to global justice in its fullest expression, which is a prerequisite to peace. The full benefits of social justice will only be realized when compassion, fairness, generosity, consideration for others, and loving-kindness are understood as divine attributes housed within each human soul, part of our common spiritual heritage.
Justice is the unifying force expressed in every dimension of reality, as the Baha’i writings affirm:
The light of men is Justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 66-67.
Indigenous cultures have long understood this unitive purpose of justice. Consciously living within a web of interconnectedness, their communities had, and in many cases still have, a system of unitive justice that simultaneously offers meaningful support to victims and helps perpetrators remain within the community to restore harmony and strengthen the community.
During humanity’s many divisive centuries of living with a consciousness of duality, a punitive system of justice developed and flourished, in which an “eye for an eye” approach created the need for restorative justice, which added generations on to the process of achieving true justice.
Now, the emerging world community desperately needs a unitive system of justice, designed explicitly to maintain unity on all levels, local to global, built upon the standard of respect, equity, and compassion for all human beings, with the ability to restore harmony built into the system. This requires looking “on all things with the eye of oneness” (Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, 18) as there can be no true global justice without the recognition of the oneness of humanity.
This is the only thing that will ensure the achievement of the purpose of justice: establishing unity in diversity, the most practical need of our time.