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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. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 79.
At this pivotal juncture in our nation’s history, our foremost responsibility is to everywhere affirm―in the name of Baha’u’llah―the truth of the oneness of humanity in a manner that will have an impact for decades to come.
We must accelerate our efforts to remove the stains of prejudice and injustice from the fabric of our society. As you take up this call with courage and zeal, we ask that you keep the following concepts in mind.
The tensions, divisions, and injustices that currently beset America are symptoms of a longstanding illness. The nation is afflicted with a deep spiritual disorder, manifest in rampant materialism, widespread moral decay, and a deeply ingrained racial prejudice. As a result, millions of our fellow Americans, subject to systemic injustices in many facets of life, are prevented from making their full contributions to society and of partaking fully in its benefits.
No one is immune to this disorder―we are all members of this society and to some degree suffer the effects of its maladies. That we live in a critical time can be seen in the way essential questions of identity, social vision, and global relations are being raised to a degree not seen in decades. Increasing numbers of our fellow-citizens are actively in search of solutions both moral and practical to answer them.
The resolution to these challenges lies in recognizing and embracing the truth at the heart of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation―the incontrovertible truth that humanity is one. Ignorance of this truth―which embodies the very spirit of the Age―is itself a form of oppression, for without it, it is impossible to build a truly just and peaceful world.
The oneness of humanity is far more than a slogan or an abstract and unattainable ideal. It has profound implications for both personal behavior and for the way society is organized―challenging many current assumptions and revolutionizing our conceptions of the relationships that should exist between the individual, society, and its institutions.
Awareness of the spiritual reality of human beings carries with it the moral requirement that all be given every opportunity to fulfill their potential and to contribute to the advancement of civilization. To this end, we have a twofold mission: to develop within our own community a pattern of life that increasingly reflects the spirit of the Baha’i teachings, and to engage with others in a deliberate and collaborative effort to eradicate the ills afflicting our nation.
The teachings of the Baha’i Faith instruct us to work to reshape society based on principles of love, inclusiveness, and reciprocity. This requires that our means be consistent with our ends―that is, by transcending current approaches that tend to divide people into contending groups, raising consciousness in such a way as to bring them together in the earnest and honest search for solutions.
The language we use and the attitudes we take, while not ignoring the harsh realities that exist in the world, should appeal to the nobler aspirations of our fellow-citizens. They should reflect assurance that the vast majority of us sincerely desire justice, and must be unifying rather than divisive. Above all, our approach must be suffused with the spirit of the sacred Word, which grants us access to immense spiritual resources. Indeed, it is the one power on earth that can transform the copper of human consciousness into the gold of spiritual perception and behavior.
We have inherited a priceless legacy of service spanning more than a century, originally set in motion by Abdu’l-Baha himself. In the past two decades especially, we have obtained important insights into how our combined and various efforts make for a coherent force for progress. The more we understand the framework of action given to us … the better we can appreciate that it is precisely suited to the needs of the time.
We are rapidly gaining the ability to engage ever-greater numbers of individuals in the work of community building who, through a sustained and meaningful process of personal and social transformation, can join together in creating effective and lasting change. The process fosters the intellectual and spiritual capacities necessary to the complex and challenging task of creating a society founded on divine principles. Surely such a convergence of capacity and opportunity is nothing less than providential.
This article, the first part of a three-part series, contains selected excerpts from the first portion of a February 25, 2017 letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, the democratically-elected U.S. national Baha’i administrative body, to the American Baha’i community. In some places, quotes from the Baha’i writings have been appended. The next two articles will contain excerpts from the middle and final portion of the letter.