Verily the resplendent Light of God hath appeared in your midst, invested with this unerring Book, that ye may be guided aright to the ways of peace and, by the leave of God, step out of the darkness into the light and onto this far-extended Path of Truth. The Bab
The world is not the same place it was when last I blogged.
* The economic crisis and credit crunch we have already learned to accept as part of our lives – we don’t seem to be receiving the minute by minute reports of stock markets falls we were receiving just a few weeks ago.
* Fuel prices have gone up and come down.
* There are a lot fewer banks in the world.
* Africa is once again in the grip of tribal conflict, this time a spilling over from the old animosities we thought had been resolved.
* The Americans have a new president and the world a new iconic leader.
We still hover, as humanity, between light and dark, positive and negative, war and peace, human rights and human wrongs. We look to the future with trepidation and with hope,
In 1985 — more than 20 years ago now (where does time go?) — the Universal House of Justice issued a landmark statement, `The Promise of World Peace’, which outlined this very situation.
Peace has somewhat fallen off the world agenda since then. Only a few short years after the Peace Statement was issued the Berlin Wall fell, middle and eastern Europe came out from behind the Iron Curtain, communism retreated, the Cold War ended and the frightening spectre of global annihilation from nuclear warfare between the super powers faded. In its place came a different set of fears – of terrorism, environmental collapse, global warming, economic meltdown, energy deficiency, the widening of the poverty gap, human rights abuses.
Yet all these are, at heart, aspects of an unpeaceful world, a world disunited and unhealthy. The Universal House of Justice saw this in 1985:
Banning nuclear weapons, prohibiting the use of poison gases, or outlawing germ warfare will not remove the root causes of war. However important such practical measures obviously are as elements of the peace process, they are in themselves too superficial to exert enduring influence. Peoples are ingenious enough to invent yet other forms of warfare, and to use food, raw materials, finance, industrial power, ideology, and terrorism to subvert one another in an endless quest for supremacy and dominion. Nor can the present massive dislocation in the affairs of humanity be resolved through the settlement of specific conflicts or disagreements among nations. A genuine universal framework must be adopted.
The Bahá’í answer to this need is the universal acceptance of the oneness of humanity as the `first fundamental prerequisite for reorganization and administration of the world as one country, the home of humankind . . . It should therefore be universally proclaimed, taught in schools, and constantly asserted . . .’
I mention this today because the Bedford Council of Faiths recently held a Festival of Faiths, aimed primarily at school children aged 9 to 13. In the UK, all children are required to study different religions, so the Festival of Faiths enabled them to meet people from 10 different faith communities, learn something of the key concepts that each faith has at its heart and participate in a number of activities associated with each faith. The purpose of Bedford Council of Faiths is to foster harmony and social cohesion among all the people of the area (Bedford itself has a very diverse population) and to promote understanding and cooperation among people – the backbone of peace.
So children wrapped turbans at the Sikh exhibition, made cardboard mosques at the Muslim stand and shook `thought jars’ with the Quakers, seeing how long it takes for glitter in water to settle, a metaphor for the quieting of thoughts when one sits in silence.
The Bahá’ís offered a `tree of unity’, based on the quotation from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh regarding the oneness of humanity: `Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.’
`The people of the world,’ we said to the children, `are like this tree with its leaves. It is one tree but there are many different leaves and branches.’ The children grasped this idea immediately – the adults found it slightly more difficult! `If we work together in unity, we can make the world anything we like,’ we said. `How would you like the world to be?’ We then asked each then to write their hope or prayer for the future on a cardboard fruit or leaf and hang it on the tree. Hundreds of children – and quite a few adults – took part.
Many children hoped the world would be `happy’, that people would be kind and helpful; some identified environmental issues such as stopping global warming; other cited social issues such as overcoming poverty, stopping hunger and ensuring that homeless people have good homes. One or two put up poignant messages wishing that their fathers lived with them or had a good job or that their parents would not fight or that bullying would stop. But the vast majority hoped for one thing: `A peaceful world with no wars.’
Here is selection from the many hundreds of messages:
For peace in the world
For a peaceful world
Peace for the world
Peace and hope and to recycle for the Earth
I hope I will be peaceful
A peaceful, loving world
I hope the world will be at peace again
A world with no fighting
I wish that people would respect the world and that the wars would stop
For the Earth to be at peace and harmony all the time
I wish that there was peace
I wish for peace on earth and that we get treated equally
To all be friends and no fighting
The world to stop fighting and get along
Confiscate all weapons
No violence in the world
I wish that there’s no more terrorism so there’s peace
And one small boy just wrote: Peace
So while `peace’ may be low down on the agenda for adults, for the children, it is a top priority. Thank goodness they will be taking over in a few years.
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