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Refugees, Migration and the Citizens of One City

Baha'i World News Service | Nov 17, 2015

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Baha'i World News Service | Nov 17, 2015

The mass movement of refugees across Europe has begun to heighten the world’s consciousness of the “organic unity of humanity,” the Baha’i International Community has said at a major conference on refugees and exiles in The Hague.

The annual general conference of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) held 14 to 16 October in the Hague, Netherlands, brought together 150 participants, including members of civil society and non-governmental organizations protecting and advancing the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons.

Volker Turk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection in the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), commented that Europe now faces an unprecedented moment in history amid the mass movement of refugees and migrants. Speaking about the expressions of solidarity in some regions where the local population welcomes and hosts refugees, Turk said that it was encouraging to see the fundamental goodness of people manifesting itself.

The annual general conference of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles

The annual general conference of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles

Michael Diedring, the Secretary General of ECRE, addressed the audience, focusing on the human dimension of the issue in his comments: “While many people put a disproportionate focus on numbers and statistics, we must never forget that each number represents a person, an individual with intrinsic value and human rights,” he said.

In its contribution, the Baha’i International Community drew particular attention to the profound interconnectedness of humanity:

The movement of populations illustrates that the peace, stability and prosperity of the different regions of the world are interconnected and that solutions cannot be intelligently considered in isolation from this global reality.

Social, institutional and legal arrangements that meet the needs of one region, but do not take into consideration those of another, are proving insufficient. What is becoming apparent is that the movement of populations is but the latest symptom of a much deeper and far-reaching concern.

Baha’is believe that the world’s current political and social structure, with its focus on nationalism, can no longer meet the needs of a desperate humanity. In the middle of the last century, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, castigated nationalist, racist and communist systems—and their leaders—for the human toll their outworn orders continue to take:

The chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind are none other than the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism, at whose altars governments and peoples, whether democratic or totalitarian, at peace or at war, of the East or of the West, Christian or Islamic, are, in various forms and in different degrees, now worshiping. Their high priests are the politicians and the worldly-wise, the so-called sages of the age; their sacrifice, the flesh and blood of the slaughtered multitudes; their incantations outworn shibboleths and insidious and irreverent formulas; their incense, the smoke of anguish that ascends from the lacerated hearts of the bereaved, the maimed, and the homeless. – Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 113.

The Baha’i teachings say only a global solution, a unified international order that fully recognizes the human rights of every person and brings about universal peace, will ultimately mitigate and solve the national and regional chaos afflicting the world:

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.

As part of the evening program at the ECRE Conference, the participants of the meeting were invited to the Mauritshuis museum, which hosts a world-renowned collection of Dutch and Flemish painters, including Rembrandt, Rubens and Breughel. Dorine Manson, director of the Dutch Council for Refugees, linked the event to what is known as the Dutch Golden Age:

“What led to the prosperity of Amsterdam in the 17th century was the arrival of refugees from all over Europe. It was thanks to them, their diversity, skills and entrepreneurship that what was once a small port city developed into the most important port and commercial center in the world by 1630. And it is thanks to that wealth that the Golden Age painters were able to contribute to the cultural heritage of Europe and the world.”

ECRE is the largest pan-European alliance, comprising 90 non-governmental organizations protecting and advancing the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons.

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