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In the lead-up to the vote this week in Chile to establish a new constitution, conversations about building an equitable society have taken greater focus throughout the country.
Over the past year, the Baha’is of Chile have been contributing to these discussions by creating spaces at every level, from the grassroots to national, to examine with their fellow citizens the foundations for a materially and spiritually prosperous society.
“This is a historic time for Chile,” says Felipe Duhart, Secretary of the country’s Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly. “We all have a rare opportunity to think collectively about the principles around which to organize our country.”
As part of its efforts to contribute to the national discourse on social progress, the Baha’i community has most recently been working with a civil society organization, Ahora nos toca participar (Now is our turn to participate), to create discussion spaces across the country. A series of gatherings in recent months led to a national event involving thousands of participants. The Baha’is of Chile have given special attention at these gatherings—which are continuing alongside the constitutional process—to ensure that the voice of women and indigenous peoples is heard.
At a recent gathering, Veronica Oré, director of the Baha’i House of Worship in Santiago, explained how certain assumptions need to be re-examined: “The historical moment in which we find ourselves, the impact of the pandemic, the awakening of a collective conscience, are driving our country to search for a new framework for society.”
“Beyond reforms,” Ms. Oré continued, “a profound transformation is required. … The proposal is that we do not look at progress only through the perspective of economic growth, but that we also consider spiritual concepts, such as justice and our essential oneness. When we think about educational policies, about constitutional changes, let us also rethink our assumptions about human nature, seeing the nobility of every human being.”
Luis Sandoval, of the Baha’i Office of External Affairs of Chile, says, “The aspirations for change manifested in Chilean society—relating to issues such as the extremes of wealth and poverty, equality between men and women, the protection of nature, and the economy—have a common element: challenges in all these areas can be traced to a model of society that places material development at the center of life and of relationships. This is insufficient; we have to go beyond this and recognize the spiritual dimension of life.”
Mr. Duhart explains that underlying all these conversations is a call for justice. “This principle can guide a process for social change in a direction that will be beneficial to all people. The Baha’i conception of justice places this as a pillar of a united society. Justice puts all people as one before God, and helps us understand how individuals, communities, and institutions form an interconnected whole. Spiritual principles such as justice provide pillars for a society where each of us, with our capacities, can develop and play our part.”
Ms. Oré, explains how the potential for achieving greater unity is realized through the House of Worship: “In the four years since its inauguration, the temple has received some two million visitors from all walks of life and backgrounds. Over the past year, the House of Worship has especially acted as a magnetic center where invitees to special gatherings have come, and after participating in devotions, have engaged in profound discussions about issues of national concern. It’s evident through the thoughtful interactions here that we can build a stronger society together.”