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The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Humanity continues its historic march toward equality and justice.
Just as religion has propelled organized societies further, considerable advances have come from the accomplishments of a few great men of spirit and faith in modern times. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States, and Mohandas Gandhi in India, both stood up for human dignity through through peaceful nonviolence. We’ve witnessed considerable leadership from America’s own presidents and other heads of state, such as Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia, whose actions directly led to glasnost, and which many attribute to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and reuniting East and West Germany.
Many courageous women have also brought us great social and spiritual progress. The female Quakers who joined with Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 to hold the first women’s rights convention made an enormous impact on today’s global movement for equality. The world’s first known peace flag was raised by Sarah Farmer, later a Baha’i, in Eliot Maine in 1894. Abolitionist women (and men), had great effects combating slavery as early as 1820, and Sojourner Truth became known for her extemporaneous speech on racial inequality, titled “Ain’t I a Woman?” delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention.
Frankly, women have been instrumental in promoting and instituting the greatest changes in the world. Now, as always, they have actually constituted the cutting edge of change.
However–the celebrated, progressive leaders of humanity couldn’t have accomplished much without the contributions of thousands of great people, past and present, low in station or high, of every ethnic, social, religious and educational background, who fought for the noble principles they believed in. No movement for social change can occur without their support, advocacy and sacrifice. We tend to remember the names of the leaders, of course—but they only rose to prominence because the time had come for the ideas and ideals they promoted; and because those ideas struck a sympathetic chord in so many others.
The Baha’i teachings suggest that these ideas whose time has come originate directly from the inspiration of a new divine revelation. Whether aware of that newly-released spiritual impetus for social change or not, those who advocate for equality, justice and peace all partake of the inspiration loosed in the world by the founders of the great Faiths:
…the divine Manifestations, the holy Mouthpieces of God, are the Collective Centers of God. These heavenly Messengers are the real Shepherds of humanity, for whenever They appear in the world They unite the scattered sheep. The Collective Center has always appeared in the Orient. Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad were Collective Centers of Their day and time, and all arose in the East. Today Baha’u’llah is the Collective Center of unity for all mankind, and the splendor of His light has likewise dawned from the East. He founded the oneness of humanity in Persia. He established harmony and agreement among the various peoples of religious beliefs, denominations, sects and cults by freeing them from the fetters of past imitations and superstitions, leading them to the very foundation of the divine religions. From this foundation shines forth the radiance of spirituality, which is unity, the love of God, the knowledge of God, praiseworthy morals and the virtues of the human world. Baha’u’llah renewed these principles, just as the coming of spring refreshes the earth and confers new life upon all phenomenal beings. For the freshness of the former springtimes had waned, the vivification had ceased, the life-giving breezes were no longer wafting their fragrances, winter and the season of darkness had come. Baha’u’llah came to renew the life of the world with this new and divine springtime, which has pitched its tent in the countries of the Orient in the utmost power and glory. It has refreshed the world of the Orient, and there is no doubt that if the world of the Occident should abandon dogmas of the past, turn away from empty imitations and superstitions, investigate the reality of the divine religions, holding fast to the example of Jesus Christ, acting in accordance with the teachings of God and becoming unified with the Orient, an eternal happiness and felicity would be attained. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 164.
We are not, nor have we ever been, alone, you and I. In our hopes of realizing a gentle, loving future for ourselves and our mates, children and grandchildren, God has continually given us guidance. All around us thousands upon thousands of religious congregations, non-profit social and educational groups, corporations and small businesses each engage in raising social consciousness, alleviating suffering and promoting goodwill in all the countries of the world. There has never been a time in human history when a collective humanity has done more good.
Wilma Rudolph, the great Olympic champion, said, “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit.” Those dreams and that spirit find expression through the rational soul, synonymous with the mind, and manifested by words and courageous actions motivated in faith. And Oh! what legions of great thinkers and doers we have in the world today, not the least of which is personified in the United Nations and its promotion of unity, peace and world harmony. Today we have more legions working for peace and human rights than ever before.
And so I ask myself “What am I doing? What can I do?” to both overcome my own spiritual battles, and to do my part to bring those hopes and dreams into reality.
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