POST 167 The Christchurch Massacre; Religion for the Future? .......Part One

Earlier this year I was quietly anticipating the exciting event of my granddaughter's upcoming 5th birthday. It was in such a pleasent reverie that I first learned of two consecutive terrorist shooting attacks in a Muslim mosque in our peaceful New Zealand city of Christchurch---my granddaughter's city.

And so that date of 15 March 2019 during the sacred time of Friday Prayer became etched in New Zealand's memory.

As most of us followed the dreadful news with a growing sense of disbelief, the dreadful human tally rose to 51 fatalities. The motives were ascribed to far-right politics and White supremacy.

That such groups should make their home in our nation seemed unbelievable to many.

As an expression of their grief, shock and comradeship, an inaugural interfaith bike ride was arranged to celebrate the city's cultural and religious diversity, visiting eight spiritual sites across Christchurch on a two-wheeled 'Peace Train'. The participants of many and diverse backgrounds cycled nearly 10km, and visited eight places of worship, hearing from the city's spiritual and religious leaders.

The Dean of the Cathedral said "It's great to be able to celebrate our common humanity no matter what our faith might be."

For most New Zealanders, having little contact with non-western countries, cultures and religions, this totally unforeseen event in OUR country was overwhelming. To learn of far-right politics, and White supremacist groups in OUR neighbourhood had upended their view of normality.

The speed of change in our world is a cause of alarm for many. It challenges our capacity of adjustment and drives many to seek safety in obsolete forms from the past. Attraction to the familiarity of the past closes important doors to the dynamic change that ensures an organism stays alive and responsive.

For others it is the lack of change that is most alarming. After all, if an organism is not changing, that's a pretty good sign that it is dead... Today many of our traditional spiritual and cultural centres show signs of becoming lifeless and neglected. Others are searching for new meanings. A growing redundancy requires the creation of new functions for historic churches, synagogues, mosques, and cultural centres.

We need to ask how best to preserve the vital signs of life in these places that should be at the very heart of our communities. Responding to a growing need for positive change in the world, the Baha’i International Community (BIC) is seeking a new kind of dialogue, one that is more consultative, unifying, inclusive; one from which new approaches and new thinking can emerge.

In May it hosted an event at the European Parliament that was representative of the BIC, the European Parliament, and the University of Groningen. Exploring the role of religion in Europe led to some promising developments.

Despite being centred on the needs of Europe, many learnings are applicable and relevant at local, national and global levels. The meeting highlighted our need to form a collective vision of the future of our society, and of the well-being of humanity. It encouraged a rethinking of religion’s role in helping societies - both religious and cultural - to address their various challenges.

To this end, the Bahai community seeks to engage in conversations at many levels, working with like-minded organizations and individuals, seeking to stimulate consultation that will draw out underlying principles around which agreement and mutual understanding can be built.                                        


POST 166 The Future has Never Looked so Bright

Many of us share the dream of our worldly family living together as one. We share a recognition that our birthplace is Earth, our race is Human, our politics are freedom and our religion: LOVE.

We write about this oneness. Some of our most beautiful poems celebrate it. Many of our most moving songs sing about it. And some of our most stirring speeches (like Martin Luther King's famous 'I Have a Dream' speech) describe it. But not our national anthems.

Most national anthems remain celebrations of uniqueness and - dare I say it - superiority. So the dreaming of unity and the singing and talking about it were the easy parts. Now we've moved beyond the pleasant stage of 'dreaming'. Now we're at the pointy edge; the 'doing' stage.

How do we go about keeping our diversity whilst achieving unity, because it's the doing of it and living it - day by day- that brings the real challenges.

Many of our differences are readily apparent; our skin colour, our language, our dress. Less apparent are our unique beliefs, our traditions and social behaviours; the practices of generations. Yet often we cling to practices that are not suited to today's world and actually constitute a barrier to development and unity.

To what extent do we need to agree on these important subjects, or is there some way to live together that accepts differences without disharmony? Often it is those very differences that become reinforced in the political vying of the electoral process, which is of its nature divisive.

Bahais avoid this division by remaining apart from politics.

"Speak thou no word of politics; thy task concerneth the life of the soul, for this verily leadeth to man’s joy in the world of God. Except to speak well of them, make thou no mention of the earth’s kings, and the worldly governments thereof.'---'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, 53

The Bahai Writings proclaim that "the most important condition that can bring about peace is unity—the unity of families, of nations, and of the great currents of thought and inquiry that we denote science and religion". ---Universal House of Justice, 19 Oct 93 to an individual.

For Bahai's '...the principle of the Oneness of Mankind, the cornerstone of Bahá’u’lláh’s world-embracing dominion, implies nothing more nor less than the enforcement of His scheme for the unification of the world—the scheme to which we have already referred.

“In every Dispensation,” writes ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, “the light of Divine Guidance has been focussed upon one central theme.… In this wondrous Revelation, this glorious century, the foundation of the Faith of God and the distinguishing feature of His Law is the consciousness of the Oneness of Mankind.”---Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh

"How pathetic indeed are the efforts of those leaders of human institutions who, in utter disregard of the spirit of the age, are striving to adjust national processes, suited to the ancient days of self-contained nations, to an age which must either achieve the unity of the world, as adumbrated by Bahá’u’lláh, or perish. At so critical an hour in the history of civilization it behooves the leaders of all the nations of the world, great and small, whether in the East or in the West, whether victors or vanquished, to give heed to the clarion call of Bahá’u’lláh and, thoroughly imbued with a sense of world solidarity, the sine quâ non of loyalty to His Cause, arise manfully to carry out in its entirety the one remedial scheme He, the Divine Physician, has prescribed for an ailing humanity'. ------Shoghi Effendi, The Guiding Principles of World Order, The World Order of Baha'u'llah

Yet in achieving this, we do not overlook those structures necessary to a politically united world, or lack a sustainable growth strategy. In 2001 as our world emerged from the strife and challenges of the 20th Century, The Universal House of Justice thrillingly declared that "the future has never looked so bright".

"A long and arduous process of struggle, experimentation and construction has led to the victories that lift our hearts as a new century opens. Through the rapidly proliferating system of institutes and the energy being invested everywhere in area growth strategies, the Bahá’í community has moved swiftly to capitalize on what has been achieved. However deep may be the gloom enveloping the world, the future has never looked so bright for the prosecution of Bahá’u’lláh’s mission." ---UHJ 24 May 2001 To the Believers Gathered for the Events Marking the Completion of the Projects on Mount Carmel.

"Every nation and every group—indeed, every individual—will, to a greater or lesser degree, contribute to the emergence of the world civilization towards which humanity is irresistibly moving. Unity will progressively be achieved, as foreshadowed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in different realms of social existence, for instance, “unity in the political realm”, “unity of thought in world undertakings”, “unity of races” and the “unity of nations”.

As these come to be realized, the structures of a politically united world, which respects the full diversity of culture and provides channels for the expression of dignity and honour, will gradually take shape"---2 Mar 2013 UHJ to Bahais of Iran