One of the most distinctive aspects of the worldwide Baha'i community is the hopeful and yet pragmatic way in which its members face the future. Far from fearing it, Baha'is are dedicated to creating a new and peaceful world civilization based on principles of justice, prosperity and continuing advancement.
Baha'i teachings affirm that humanity -- the arrowhead of the evolution of consciousness -- has passed through stages that mirror infancy, childhood and adolescence. This journey has brought us to the birth of a human race conscious of its own oneness.
The central spiritual issue facing all people, whatever their nation, religion or ethnic origin, is the laying of a foundation that supports the oneness of human nature. Unification of Earth's inhabitants is neither a remote utopian vision, nor a matter of choice. It is the next stage in the process of social evolution. Without this foundation, the ills afflicting our planet cannot be solved, as the essential challenges of this age are global and universal, not particular or regional.
"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established," according to Baha'i teachings.
Throughout humanity's childhood, it was assumed -- with the concurrence of organized religion -- that poverty was a constant companion. Now, this crippling mind-set, which shaped the priorities of economic systems worldwide, has been universally rejected. And, in theory at least, government has become responsible for society's well being.
"The needs are many and undeniable," President George W. Bush commented at the World Bank headquarters on July 17. "And they are a challenge to our conscience and to complacency. A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half of the human race lives on less than $2 a day, is neither just, nor stable."
Disparity between rich and poor has created an instability that forced the world to the brink of war. But the combined application of spiritual, moral and practical approaches offers a solution, drawing from a wide spectrum of experts devoid of economic and ideological disputes and encompassing those affected by these urgently needed decisions.
To believe that conflict is intrinsic to human nature, rather than a learned habit and attitude, is to force on a new century the single most tragic error of humanity's past.
Regard for the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, has been afflicted through various causes with grave disorders and maladies is found in Baha'i writings.
As all religions teach, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly source.
"I consider peace between world religions as a prerequisite for peace among the nations," said Hans Kung, a Catholic theologian.
Humanity's conscious relationship with its creator, to the extent that one has been established, has been the result of the influence of the great religions' founders -- Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and earlier figures whose names are, for the most part, lost to memory. Through responding to these impulses of the divine, Earth's people have progressively developed spiritual, intellectual and moral capacities that have combined to civilize human character.
We reaffirm the belief that the "potentialities inherent in the station of man, the full measure of his destiny on Earth, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God." These are the motivations for our faith, that unity and peace are the attainable goal for which humanity strives.
With every passing day, the signs multiply that great numbers of people everywhere are awakening to these realizations.
In the teachings of the Baha'i faith, "These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come."
The Baha'i faith is an independent monotheistic religion with a worldwide population of some 5 million people. They come from more than 2,000 different tribal, racial and ethnic groups and live in 235 countries and dependent territories.
Paul Gray of Soldotna is a Baha'i, serving as the public information officer for Alaska.
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