Sunday, November 16, 2008

Religion and Unity: Report

Last night's interfaith panel discussion on the role of religion in promoting unity at the Boston Baha'i Center appeared to be a great success. The panel included representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Urantia Book, the United Church of Christ, and the Baha'i Faith. The representatives from the LDS church emphasized the importance of family unity as the foundation of all other kinds of unity, sharing stories about their own families and the inspiration they derive from the scriptures of their faith. The representative of the Urantia Book, which appeared to also have some relation to biblical Christianity, emphasized the how the expansion of consciousness of how great God is would contribute to greater unity among religious people. Pastor Michele Bagby Allen, a long time friend and fellow Harvard Divinity School grad, argued that the example of Jesus in the Gospels as well as statements by the Apostle Paul served as evidence that Christianity can be a basis for unity among people. My contribution to the discussion was to talk about world unity, specifically the following quote from Shoghi Effendi:

Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life...The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive, backed by an international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth. A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system. A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity. A world metropolis will act as the nerve center of a world civilization, the focus towards which the unifying forces of life will converge and from which its energizing influences will radiate. A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue. A world script, a world literature, a uniform and universal system of currency, of weights and measures, will simplify and facilitate intercourse and understanding among the nations and races of mankind. In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will cooperate, and will harmoniously develop. The press will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. The economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be coordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated...

A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation -- such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving.

(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 202)

I also discussed Baha'i involvement in influencing global discourse and decision making (Baha'i International Community's work at the U.N.) and promoting spiritual transformation at the grassroots through community building (the core activities) as two strategies for achieving world unity. All in all it was a inspiring and fruitful dialogue that everyone present seemed to enjoy. Even little Douglass Ali offered appreciative baby noises from time to time.

God is the Most Glorious.