I know we have all been there. That moment (which happens way too often, unfortunately) when you watch or read the news or hear stories about the most terrible violence, injustice and corruption happening right before our eyes, all over the world. You might feel almost powerless, or that no effort you make could save the world from so much pain and suffering.
It is evident, then, that what the world needs is a transformation. The world is undergoing a painful disintegration, but the integration of a new world is on its way. This transformation is greater than we can imagine, it requires the building of a whole new civilization while we see the old civilization crumble and decay. Baha’u’llah states that the goal of every religion is
to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions.1
This makes me ask myself: How can we assist with this transformation?
Aha! We are indeed very fortunate. We have the ongoing guidance from the Universal House of Justice as well as the the vast experiences in communities around the world where this transformation is already taking place through devotional meetings, study circles, children’s classes, and junior youth groups and through home visits, firesides, deepenings, and acts of service – to name a few! We have the opportunity to be engaged in this process of transformation wherever we are, and to learn alongside others how this transformation is shaping new patterns of community life. The forces of disintegration will challenge us, but if we are firm and devoted we can contribute to these incredible forces of integration with the unquestionable certainty of the higher station that God has destined for humanity.
I take courage in knowing that “the community-building efforts being exerted around the world by Baha’is and friends are not simply good social projects by selfless individuals”; these efforts are contributing to this process of integration which is “influencing increasing numbers of people to work for unity and progress”.2
This is not something that can happen overnight or by a small group of people. These processes of integration and disintegration, both, are helping the advancement of the world spiritually and materially. As we strive to build community life and unite the material and spiritual in all aspects of our lives, these words by our beloved Master are so befitting and clear:
Material civilization is like unto the lamp, while spiritual civilization is the light in that lamp. If the material and spiritual civilizations become united, then we will have the light and the lamp together, and the outcome will be perfect.3
Undoubtedly, we all long for that perfect outcome, for that lamp to shine brightly. In order to learn to unite the material and spiritual, youth from around the world have been reflecting on the 2013 Youth Conference materials. They contain so much and could make us reflect for a lifetime on what it means to advance our civilization, but there are two particular points that drew my attention.
The first one is the acceptance of the vital truth that we are all one. This is most definitely the essential step to building a new civilization where we are learning to avoid prejudices of all types and where all of our relationships at the various levels of society, are based on love and justice, making sure each and every individual is given the opportunity to serve and do social good.
The second one is the understanding of the shared right and duty we all have to contribute to this process of integration. We can find great joy in bringing to everyone’s awareness their potential to help build a new world, and enabling them to arise to fulfill their duty as conscious builders of this new and bright civilization.
I am attempting to carry these fundamental points in my heart and mind as I make decisions, as I consult with my family, work with my community, and as I strive to help others become effective and conscious builders of the vibrant, peaceful and radiant new civilization the world is awaiting so desperately.
My heart breaks every day when I see the effects of climate change, the levels of poverty rising, the unimaginable life refugees are facing, the high levels of crime and how normal it has become, the degradation of every ounce of morality, the immense food insecurity, the injustice that is so evident at every level of society and even the stress that we are all under for having to live in such a chaotic world. Yet, these heart-wrenching realities can provide us with a sense of mission and be a source of extra encouragement, the catalyst that propels our efforts and fuels our souls as we make herculean efforts to advance civilization to its true destiny.
As I continue to strive in my service to the betterment of the world, here are some words from Baha’u’llah that give me added inspiration:
O friends! Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed, neither be neglectful of your high destiny. Suffer not your labors to be wasted through the vain imaginations which certain hearts have devised. Ye are the stars of the heaven of understanding, the breeze that stirreth at the break of day, the soft-flowing waters upon which must depend the very life of all men, the letters inscribed upon His sacred scroll. With the utmost unity, and in a spirit of perfect fellowship, exert yourselves, that ye may be enabled to achieve that which beseemeth this Day of God. Verily I say, strife and dissension, and whatsoever the mind of man abhorreth are entirely unworthy of his station. Center your energies in the propagation of the Faith of God. Whoso is worthy of so high a calling, let him arise and promote it. … Be ye guided by wisdom in all your doings, and cleave ye tenaciously unto it. Please God ye may all be strengthened to carry out that which is the Will of God, and may be graciously assisted to appreciate the rank conferred upon such of His loved ones as have arisen to serve Him and magnify His name.4
What inspires you to advance civilization?
- Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan: The Book of Certitude (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 2003, 2005 printing), para. 270. [↩]
- Youth Conference Materials, retrieved from http://american.bahai.us [↩]
- Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, from a talk in New York, 14 April 1912, at Church of the Ascension, para. 2. [↩]
- Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah (US Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1990 printing), pages. 195-197. [↩]