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Forward to Part III
The Prosperity Of Humankind
A Statement Prepared by the
Bahá'í International Community's
Office of Public Information
Justice is the one power that can translate the dawning consciousness
of humanity's oneness into a collective will through which the
necessary structures of global community life can be confidently
erected. An age that sees the people of the world increasingly
gaining access to information of every kind and to a diversity of
ideas will find justice asserting itself as the ruling principle of
successful social organisation.
With ever greater frequency, proposals aiming at the development of
the planet will have to submit to the candid light of the standards it
At the individual level, justice is that faculty of the human soul
that enables each person to distinguish truth from falsehood. In the
sight of God, Bahá'u'lláh avers, Justice is "the best
beloved of all things" since it permits each individual to see with
his own eyes rather than the eyes of others, to know through his own
knowledge rather than the knowledge of his neighbour or his group. It
calls for fair-mindedness in one's judgements, for equity in one's
treatment of others, and is thus a constant if demanding companion in
the daily occasions of life.
At the group level, a concern for justice is the indispensable compass
in collective decision making, because it is the only means by which
unity of thought and action can be achieved. Far from encouraging the
punitive spirit that has often masqueraded under its name in past
ages, justice is the practical expression of awareness that, in the
achievement of human progress, the interests of the individual and
those of society are inextricably linked. To the extent that justice
becomes a guiding concern of human interaction, a consultative climate
is encouraged that permits options to be examined dispassionately and
appropriate courses of action selected. In such a climate the
perennial tendencies toward manipulation and partisanship are far less
likely to deflect the decision-making process.
The implications for social and economic development are profound.
Concern for justice protects the task of defining progress from the
temptation to sacrifice the well-being of the generality of humankind
-- and even of the planet itself -- to the advantages which
technological breakthroughs can make available to privileged
minorities. In design and planning, it ensures that limited resources
are not diverted to the pursuit of projects extraneous to a
community's essential social or economic priorities. Above all, only
development programmes that are perceived as meeting their needs and
as being just and equitable in objective can hope to engage the
commitment of the masses of humanity, upon whom implementation
depends. The relevant human qualities such as honesty, a willingness
to work, and a spirit of co-operation are successfully harnessed to
the accomplishment of enormously demanding collective goals when every
member of society -- indeed every component group within society -- can
trust that they are protected by standards and assured of benefits
that apply equally to all.
At the heart of the discussion of a strategy of social and economic
development, therefore, lies the issue of human rights. The shaping
of such a strategy calls for the promotion of human rights to be freed
from the grip of the false dichotomies that have for so long held it
hostage. Concern that each human being should enjoy the freedom of
thought and action conducive to his or her personal growth does not
justify devotion to the cult of individualism that so deeply corrupts
many areas of contemporary life. Nor does concern to ensure the
welfare of society as a whole require a deification of the state as
the supposed source of humanity's well-being. Far otherwise: the
history of the present century shows all too clearly that such
ideologies and the partisan agendas to which they give rise have been
themselves the principal enemies of the interests they purport to
serve. Only in a consultative framework made possible by the
consciousness of the organic unity of humankind can all aspects of the
concern for human rights find legitimate and creative expression.
Today, the agency on whom has devolved the task of creating this
framework and of liberating the promotion of human rights from those
who would exploit it is the system of international institutions born
out of the tragedies of two ruinous world wars and the experience of
world-wide economic breakdown. Significantly, the term "human rights"
has come into general use only since the promulgation of the United
Nations Charter in 1945 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights three years later. In these history-making documents,
formal recognition has been given to respect for social justice as a
correlative of the establishment of world peace. The fact that the
Declaration passed without a dissenting vote in the General Assembly
conferred on it from the outset an authority that has grown steadily
in the intervening years.
The activity most intimately linked to the consciousness that
distinguishes human nature is the individual's exploration of reality
for himself or herself. The freedom to investigate the purpose of
existence and to develop the endowments of human nature that make it
achievable requires protection. Human beings must be free to know.
That such freedom is often abused and such abuse grossly encouraged by
features of contemporary society does not detract in any degree from
the validity of the impulse itself.
It is this distinguishing impulse of human consciousness that provides
the moral imperative for the enunciation of many of the rights
enshrined in the Universal Declaration and the related Covenants.
Universal education, freedom of movement, access to information, and
the opportunity to participate in political life are all aspects of
its operation that require explicit guarantee by the international
community. The same is true of freedom of thought and belief,
including religious liberty, along with the right to hold opinions and
express these opinions appropriately.
Since the body of humankind is one and indivisible, each member of the
race is born into the world as a trust of the whole. This trusteeship
constitutes the moral foundation of most of the other rights --
principally economic and social -- which the instruments of the United
Nations are attempting similarly to define. The security of the
family and the home, the ownership of property, and the right to
privacy are all implied in such a trusteeship. The obligations on the
part of the community extend to the provision of employment, mental
and physical health care, social security, fair wages, rest and
recreation, and a host of other reasonable expectations on the part of
the individual members of society.
The principle of collective trusteeship creates also the right of
every person to expect that those cultural conditions essential to his
or her identity enjoy the protection of national and international
law. Much like the role played by the gene pool in the biological
life of humankind and its environment, the immense wealth of cultural
diversity achieved over thousands of years is vital to the social and
economic development of a human race experiencing its collective
coming-of-age. It represents a heritage that must be permitted to
bear its fruit in a global civilization. On the one hand, cultural
expressions need to be protected from suffocation by the materialistic
influences currently holding sway. On the other, cultures must be
enabled to interact with one another in ever-changing patterns of
civilization, free of manipulation for partisan political ends.
"The light of men", Bahá'u'lláh says, "is
Justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and
tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.
The ocean of divine wisdom surgeth within this exalted word, while the
books of the world cannot contain its inner significance."
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