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O kings of the earth! We see you increasing every year your expenditures, and laying the burden thereof on your subjects. This, verily, is wholly and grossly unjust. Fear the sighs and tears of this wronged One, and lay not excessive burdens on your peoples. Do not rob them to rear palaces for yourselves; nay rather choose for them that which ye choose for yourselves. Thus We unfold to your eyes that which profiteth you, if ye but perceive…

O rulers of the earth! Be reconciled among yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments save in a measure to safeguard your territories and dominions. Beware lest ye disregard the counsel of the All-Knowing, the Faithful.

Be united, O kings of the earth, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest, if ye be of them that comprehend. Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 253-254.

Seventy-five years ago, almost a year before America’s entry into World War II, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a landmark State of the Union speech that offered a clear vision for a better global future. Called the Four Freedoms speech, Roosevelt combined two of the recognized American Constitutional guarantees—freedom of speech and freedom of religion—with two new concepts, which he called “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear.” In those two categories, Roosevelt introduced several distinctly Baha’i concepts: economic cooperation, interdependence among nations and a worldwide reduction in armaments to prevent national aggression:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. – Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941

These four freedoms, thanks to the diligent work of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt after the passing of her husband, then became part of the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948:

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed the highest aspiration of the common people….

Every December 10, the world observes International Human Rights Day to celebrate the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You’ve undoubtedly heard of the UDHR, but have you heard of the International Bill of Human Rights?

bill-of-human-rightsDuring this coming year, the global community of nations and peoples will mark another milestone: the 50th anniversary of the two subsequent International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 49 years ago, on 16 December 1966.

“Those two Covenants,” the UN’s official statement says, “together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights, setting out the civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights that are the birth right of all human beings.”

The year-long campaign to celebrate the International Bill of Human Rights revolves around the theme of the four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah’s revelation has brought these freedoms to us all:

The spirit of liberty which in recent decades has swept over the planet with such tempestuous force is a manifestation of the vibrancy of the Revelation brought by Baha’u’llah. His own words confirm it. “The Ancient Beauty,” He wrote in a soul-stirring commentary on His sufferings, “hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole earth may attain unto true liberty.”

Might it not be reasonably concluded, then, that “true liberty” is His gift of love to the human race? Consider what Baha’u’llah has done: He revealed laws and principles to guide the free, He established an Order to channel the actions of the free, He proclaimed a Covenant to guarantee the unity of the free.

Thus, we hold to this ultimate perspective: Baha’u’llah came to set humanity free. His Revelation is, indeed, an invitation to freedom — freedom from want, freedom from war, freedom to unite, freedom to progress, freedom in peace and joy. – 1986 Message to the American Baha’i Community from The Universal House of Justice.

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