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Would You Like to Be a World Citizen?

David Langness | Sep 21, 2015

PART 5 IN SERIES World Citizenship

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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David Langness | Sep 21, 2015

PART 5 IN SERIES World Citizenship

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world. – Socrates

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world. – Eugene V. Debs

The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. – Thomas Paine

Our true nationality is mankind. – H.G. Wells

We are citizens of the world. The tragedy of our times is that we do not know this. – Woodrow Wilson

For millennia now, philosophers, poets and prophets have dreamed of the day when all humanity might become citizens of the world. Going back to the earliest human civilizations, this vision of our unity as global citizens has inspired us. Centuries ago, in the Hindu Sanskrit Hitopadesha, an early collection of spiritual parables, the term “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” meant “the world is one family.”

How would that vision of global citizenship actually work? In practical terms, what steps could we take to begin making that great dream a reality? You might be surprised to know that several globally-minded, internationalist groups have already made progress toward the goal of world citizenship.

The Global Scenario Group (GSG), an environmental organization that specializes in futurist forecasting and scenario analysis, has already said the world has entered the Planetary Phase of Civilization. Their reports predict that increasing global interdependence and planetary risks like climate change must inevitably bring the world together into a unitary system. This Planetary Phase, the GSG forecasts, will produce a fundamental shift in institutions, values and ways of thinking, including global governance, a reduction in economic and political boundaries, increasing globalization and mass migration.

These kinds of sweeping changes have inspired many organizations to form social movements that advocate the formal realization of world citizenship for every person on the planet.

TokyoHere’s just one interesting example: the World Government of World Citizens one of several serious world citizenship movements, has popularized the use of the term mundialization, a French term for the declaration of a specified territory—a city, town, or state, for example—as a world territory, with responsibilities and rights on a world scale. This global citizenship idea, first promoted by Robert Sarrazac, the former leader of the French Résistance, initially created the Human Front of World Citizens in 1945. Since the late 1940’s, Sarrazac’s mundialization concept has spread around the globe, with more than 1000 cities and towns declaring themselves “World Cities:” Los Angeles, Tokyo, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Hiroshima, Toronto, etc., etc. To see if your city or town has agreed to be a World City, or to find out how to make it one, take a look at the list.

The overall goals of these grassroots global citizenship movements often have a remarkable resemblance to the Baha’i teachings. Mundialization, for instance, asks cities, states and nations to voluntarily work to help establish a federally-affiliated government of all humanity, with executive, legislative and judicial functions combining to create a world parliament, universally and democratically elected by the people of the planet. The World Federalists advocate a very similar model of global governance and world citizenship. The Baha’i teachings offered that model to the world in the 19th Century, long before any of the popular movements toward world citizenship got underway.

Certainly most people can comprehend the advantages in such a global structure, and its enormous potential impact on world peace, the dramatic reduction of military budgets, the lessening of the burden of taxation, the tremendous potential for binding international pacts to prevent further environmental destruction, and the extension of human rights to all. The Baha’i writings say that the development of such a world consciousness represents the best and highest expression of our destiny:

The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture — all of which must synchronize with the initial stages in the unfoldment of the Golden Age of the Baha’i Era — should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society… – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 163.

In 1985, the world’s first democratically-elected global governing body—The Universal House of Justice, the administrative leader of the planet’s Baha’is—issued this statement about the relationship of love of country and love of the world and all humanity:

The love of one’s country, instilled and stressed by the teaching of Islam, as “an element of the Faith of God,” has not, through this declaration, this clarion-call of Baha’u’llah, been either condemned or disparaged. It should not, indeed it cannot, be construed as a repudiation, or regarded in the light of a censure, pronounced against a sane and intelligent patriotism, nor does it seek to undermine the allegiance and loyalty of any individual to his country, nor does it conflict with the legitimate aspirations, rights, and duties of any individual state or nation. All it does imply and proclaim is the insufficiency of patriotism, in view of the fundamental changes effected in the economic life of society and the interdependence of the nations, and as the consequence of the contraction of the world, through the revolution in the means of transportation and communication — conditions that did not and could not exist either in the days of Jesus Christ or of Muhammad. It calls for a wider loyalty, which should not, and indeed does not, conflict with lesser loyalties. It instills a love which, in view of its scope, must include and not exclude the love of one’s own country. It lays, through this loyalty which it inspires, and this love which it infuses, the only foundation on which the concept of world citizenship can thrive, and the structure of world unification can rest. It does insist, however, on the subordination of national considerations and particularistic interests to the imperative and paramount claims of humanity as a whole, inasmuch as in a world of interdependent nations and peoples the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole.

Baha’u’llah’s statement is: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” The concept of world citizenship is a direct result of the contraction of the world into a single neighbourhood through scientific advances and of the indisputable interdependence of nations. Love of all the world’s peoples does not exclude love of one’s country. The advantage of the part in a world society is best served by promoting the advantage of the whole. Current international activities in various fields which nurture mutual affection and a sense of solidarity among peoples need greatly to be increased. – The Universal House of Justice, October 1985, The Promise of World Peace, p. 3.

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