THE BAHA'I FAITH
The Baha'i Faith is a new religion founded 150 years ago. Its main teachings revolve around the oneness of humanity and the need for world peace. It claims to have the solutions for the world spiritual and social problems.
There are several million Baha'is in the world. They live in every country of the world and there are organised Baha'i communities in most countries.
- that we human beings have both a spiritual and physical aspect to our nature; that as long as we insist in only seeking to satisfy the physical aspect, we will remain unhappy and unfulfilled; that the most important aspect of our nature is the spiritual and that our task and goal during our brief lives on earth must be to develop this spiritual aspect;
- that although it is possible for us to develop ourselves to a certain extent, the best way to achieve this is to follow the teachings of one of those great beings who have founded the world religions; they show the path and guide us much more effectively than we can guide ourselves;
- that these great spiritual teachers have come from time to time in human history and have guided humanity both in its spiritual and its social progress and development; that these founders of the world religions, such persons as Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, have therefore been of equal importance in the history of humanity and therefore they should each be accorded the same high respect;
- that behind these great teachers there is an entity which is beyond human understanding; it s infinite and unknown, the Absolute Reality; in different religions it is called by different names, God, YHWH, Allah, Brahman, or the Adi Buddha and may be described in different and even contradictory ways, but that ultimately, these different descriptions refer to the same single Reality;
- that the teachings of the founders of the world religions can each be divided into two aspects, a set of spiritual and ethical teachings which are largely identical, and a set of social teachings, which differ because of the different time and social circumstances in which these individuals appeared; the spiritual teachings have all revolved around the concept that we must detach ourselves from the things of this world and try to acquire certain qualities such as being loving, compassionate, truthful, humble, just, trustworthy, wise, and peaceful;
- that the founders of the world religions have each of necessity given their message within a particular context -- a particular time, social circumstance and world-view -- and that this is the cause of the differences that appear between the religions; that the followers of these religions have often given undue importance to the particularities, and have not seen the broader unifying perspective;
- that the reason that these spiritual teachers have come to the world at different times and in various places, is partly because of the fact that the various nations and tribes of the world were isolated from each other until the last century, and partly because of human social evolution - the changing nature of our societies means that new teachings, especially social teachings become necessary; that the founders of the world religions have taught a message that has been suitable for the time and circumstances in which each have appeared;
- that humanity has now come to the stage in its evolution when it is necessary to start thinking in terms of one human race living in one world; that we are all brothers and sisters and neighbours of one another on this small planet; that we must start thinking and acting as though "the earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens";
- that the affairs of the world must be run from this global perspective with the welfare of all humanity in mind; that we are already living in a world that is effectively unified in every way, in terms of communications, travel, finance, trade and resources and so we must establish political structures that reflect this unity;
- and that Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith, is the latest in this series of spiritual teachers and has brought us the spiritual and social teachings and the social structures necessary for humanity to progress to the next stage in its evolution, the unification of the world.
The Baha'i Faith's global scope is mirrored in the composition of its membership. Representing a cross-section of humanity, Baha'is come from virtually every nation, ethnic group, culture, profession and social or economic class. More than 2,100 different ethnic and tribal groups are represented. Since it also forms a single community, free of schism or factions, the Bahá'í Faith comprises what is very likely the most diverse and widespread organized body of people on earth.
Together, Baha'is are working towards building a new world where:
- all children will receive an education and will thus be able to participate in the social process;
- where women will play a full social role, in particular in the advancement of peace, and women and men will be treated equally;
- no-one will be discriminated against because of their race, gender, religion, or age;
- extremes of poverty and wealth, both of nations and individuals, will be removed;
- the cultural and individual diversity in humanity will be maintained and encouraged;
- an agreed international language will be learned in all schools in addition to national and local languages, thus facilitating international communication;
- an agreed international governmental structure will unify the world, and safeguard the environment and resources of the world;
- an international peace treaty will determine international borders and international force will guarantee these, thus reducing the need for individual countries to spend large amounts on armaments;
- and decision-making processes will be through free and far-ranging consultative processes, while administration will be as far as possible decentralized;
However, Baha'is do not believe that these social principles can be achieved merely by political and administrative means. They require a spiritual change within each of us so that we become less self-centred and a psychological change, such that we stop thinking about ourselves primarily in terms of limited loyalties to nation, class, ethnic group, religion, social class, or gender and start thinking of ourselves in terms of human beings living on one inter-connected planet.
The Baha'i community has a program of action at the local level. This involves courses that are designed to develop the capacity of all, especially those who have been repressed and oppressed in the lower levels of our societies (the poor, ethnic minorities, women) to think for themselves and to have confidence to voice their opinions. Moreover this development program is not in the direction of self-centredness and narcissism that so much of so-called "self-improvement" and "empowerment" programs today are. Rather the program develops the capacity to be of service to others and to the community.
Baha'is are actively working towards these goals at a local level by building communities that replace the emphasis in our present world on competition, domination and conflict by an emphasis on working in cooperation and collaboration though consultative processes that encourage the participation of all. Baha'is consider that the present political structures in all parts of the world encourage divisiveness and conflict, therefore they prefer not to use them but rather to build an alternative model of society. These activities are not insular and confined to members of their own community. Baha'is are actively reaching out to all like-minded people and creating networks of social cohesion and action that can act as a framework for a future society.
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