Recent Articles
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    When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá talked about the problems and challenges humanity must deal with during His travels in Europe and the United States and Canada from 1910 to 1913, He brought up the equality of men and women—a question that, where it has been unaddressed, is causing a crisis in society (and families) and consequently a threat to the social structure.

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    In December 1911, ‘Abdu’l- Bahá returned from His tour in London and Paris to spend the winter months in the city of Alexandria and prepare for His journey to America and Canada the following year. The flow of visitors to His residence continued all through the months of the winter…

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  • Universal Love

    ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, while on visit to the city of Paris in 1911, more than once addressed the subject of the soul in His public talks. He pointed out in particular its spiritual nature and its essential effect on material life, with emphasis too on its role in establishing a unity of mankind for whose realization in this enlightened age all past religions participated in preparing the way.

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An open letter to the people of Egypt (continued)

                                                             The Nile and Egypt by day

A mature society demonstrates one feature above all others: a recognition of the oneness of humanity. How fortunate, then, that the most abiding memory of recent months is not of religious divisions or ethnic conflict, but of differences being put aside in favour of a common cause. Our instinctive ability, as a people, to recognize the truth that we all belong to one human family served us well. Nevertheless, to develop institutions, agencies, and social structures that promote the oneness of humanity is an altogether greater challenge. Far from being an expression of vague and pious hope, this principle informs the nature of those essential relationships that must bind all the states and nations as members of one human family. Its genesis lies in the recognition that we were all created out of the same substance by the one Creator, and therefore, it is indefensible for one person, tribe, or nation to claim superiority over another. Its acceptance would require an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change with far-reaching consequences for every aspect of our collective life. And beyond its societal implications, it calls for a profound re-examination of each of our own attitudes, values, and relationships with others—ultimately, for a transformation in the human heart. None of us are exempt from its exacting demands.

The ramifications of this fundamental truth—the oneness of humanity—are so profound that many other vital principles, essential for the future development of Egypt, can be derived from it. A prime example is the equality of men and women. Does anything retard progress in our country more efficiently than the persistent exclusion of women from full participation in the affairs of the nation? Redressing this balance will by itself bring about improvement in every aspect of Egyptian life: religious, cultural, social, economic, and political. Like the bird that cannot fly if one wing is weaker than the other, so humanity’s ability to scale the heights of real attainment are severely impeded so long as women are denied the opportunities afforded to men. Once the same prerogatives are accorded both sexes, they will both flourish, to the benefit of all. But beyond the matter of civil rights, the principle of gender equality brings with it an attitude that must be extended to the home, to the workplace, to every social space, to the political sphere—ultimately, even to international relations.

Nowhere could the equality of the sexes more helpfully be established than in education, which exists to enable men and women of every background to fulfil their innate potential to contribute to the progress of society. If it is to succeed, it must offer adequate preparation for participation in the economic life of the nation, but so, too, it must possess a robust moral dimension. Schools must impress upon their students the responsibilities inherent in being a citizen of Egypt and inculcate those values that tend toward the betterment of society and care for one’s fellow human beings. Education cannot be allowed to be the means whereby disunity and hatred of others are instilled into innocent minds. With the right approach, it can also become an effective instrument for protecting future generations from the insidious blight of corruption that so conspicuously afflicts present-day Egypt. Furthermore, access to basic education must be universal, regardless of any distinctions based on gender, ethnicity, or means. Strategies for harnessing the resources of our nation—our heritage, our agriculture, our industry—will prove fruitless if we neglect the most important resource of all: our own God-given spiritual and intellectual capacities. To prioritize improving the means by which we educate ourselves will yield an abundant harvest in the years to come.

Related to the topic of education is the interaction between science and religion, twin sources of insight that humanity can draw upon as it seeks to achieve progress. It is a blessing that Egyptian society, as a whole, does not assume that the two must be in conflict, a perception sadly commonplace elsewhere. Indeed, we possess a proud history of fostering a spirit of rational and scientific enquiry—with admirable results in the areas of farming and medicine, to name but two—while retaining a strong religious tradition and respect for the values promulgated by the world’s great faiths. There is nothing in such values that should incline us toward irrational thinking or fanaticism. All of us, especially our younger generation, can be conscious that it is possible for individuals to be imbued with sincere spirituality while actively labouring for the material progress of their nation.

Our nation is blessed by an abundance of youth. Some amongst us are in education; some are beginning careers or starting families; some, though older, remember what it was like to pass through those stages of life. Reform of the education system will go a long way towards ensuring that the potential of the younger generation to contribute to the life of society is realized; however, by itself, that is not sufficient. Conditions must be nurtured so that opportunities for meaningful employment multiply, talent is harnessed, and possibilities to progress are accessed on the basis of merit, not privilege. Disenchantment will grow if, because of persistent corruption, inequality, and neglect, the efforts youth make to improve the conditions of families, communities, and neighbourhoods are thwarted at every turn. The high aspirations of the young represent a trust that society as a whole—indeed, the state itself—cannot afford, either economically or morally, to ignore.

This is not to say that youth are in need of special privileges. Much of the dissatisfaction that younger adults have expressed in recent months comes from an acute awareness that they lack equality of opportunity, not preferential treatment. From the conditions faced by the youth and by so many others in our society it is clear that pre-eminent among the principles that should propel the renewal we seek is justice. Its far-reaching implications are at the core of most of the issues on which we must, as a people, agree. And it is from the interplay of the two vital principles of justice and the oneness of humanity that an important truth emerges: each individual comes into the world as a trust of the whole, and the collective resources of the human race should therefore be expended for the benefit of all, not just a fraction. Neglect of this ideal has a particularly destabilizing influence on society, as extremes of wealth and poverty exacerbate existing social tensions and provoke unrest. Measures to alleviate poverty cannot ignore the existence of extreme wealth, for where there are inordinate riches accumulated by the few, the many will not escape impoverishment.

Considered only in the abstract, perhaps few will dispute the essential merit of the principles discussed here. Yet, their implementation would have profound political, economic, social, and personal implications, which render them more challenging than they may appear at first. But regardless of the principles to be adopted, their capacity to imprint themselves on our emerging society will depend in large measure on the degree to which Egyptians have embraced them. For to the extent that all can be enabled to participate in the consultative processes that affect us—so that we tread the path towards becoming protagonists of our own material and spiritual development—will we avoid the risk of our society falling into the pattern of any of the existing models that see no advantage in empowering the people.

The challenge before us, then, is to initiate a process of consultation about the principles that are to inform the reshaping of our society. This is a painstaking task. To fashion from divergent conceptions a coherent set of principles with the creative power to unify our population will be no small accomplishment. However, we can be confident that every sincere effort invested for this purpose will be richly rewarded by the release, from our own selves, of a fresh measure of those constructive energies on which our future depends. In such a broadly based national conversation—engaging people at all levels, in villages and in cities, in neighbourhoods and in the home, extending to the grassroots of society and drawing in every concerned citizen—it will be vital that the process not move too quickly to the pragmatic and the expedient, and not be reduced to the deals and decisions involved in the distribution of power among a new elite who would presume to become the arbiters of our future.

The ongoing and wide-scale involvement of the population in such a consultative process will go a long way towards persuading the citizenry that policy-makers have the creation of a just society at heart. Given the opportunity to participate in such a process, we will be confirmed in our newly awakened consciousness that we have ownership of our own future and come to realize the collective power we already possess to transform ourselves.

The Bahá’ís of Egypt



Great Sphinx of Giza and Pyramid of Cheops (2010) by kallerna was kindly shared through Wikimedia in accord with the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

The Nile and Egypt by Day by Douglas H. Wheelock, via Wikimedia Commons, (Satellite photo from the en:ISS). This file is in the public domain because it was created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted”.