Friday, 20 September 2019

Eating for the future


Many people have been out on the streets protesting that governments should do something about climate change, but there are also many things that we can do as individuals to reduce the threat of global warming. One of these is being careful about what we eat. A short while ago, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change produced a report suggesting that the current food choices of mankind collectively are adding to the process of global warming and climate change. It is excellent that there is a body looking at the climate change process from a global perspective, given that we have not yet evolved global institutions, and that we do not yet function as one, united, mankind. Bahá’u’lláh urged us: “Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.” Luckily, the International Panel for Climate Change has that world-embracing vision, and is urging action now, because now is the time when we need to act to avoid the worst effects of global warming. As Bahá’u’lláh said: “Every age hath its own problem... Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” This is so necessary.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (I.P.C.C.), a general change in the diet of mankind towards eating less meat is part of the remedy the world needs. Why should this be? Comparing plant consumption with meat consumption, producing meat uses up more land than does plant production, as the animals need a lot of land to produce enough food for them, both fresh pasture and winter feed. In the Amazon, for instance, forest areas are being cut down or burned down to provide pasture and also to grow winter feed for animals in other parts of the world. Another consideration is the amount of methane produced by the unnaturally large quantities of cattle and other animals, as a by-product of our own food choices. So we have more large animals producing more methane and breathing out carbon dioxide, at the same time as we have more trees being destroyed which should be absorbing these chemicals.

The I.P.C.C. observes that, for most people, any reduction in the amount of meat which they eat will probably also result in health benefits. Millions of people consume more protein than necessary, indeed they eat more food than is necessary. Millions of us are labelled as “overweight”, or even “obese”. A better diet, with more fruit and vegetables, should prevent so many people developing diabetes, heart conditions and so on.

Does this all mean that we should be evolving toward vegetarianism – or even veganism? The I.P.C.C. stops short of advocating this. But from a Bahá’í point of view, this is the direction which the world should be taking anyway. It states in the Bahá’í Writings that: “The food of the future will be fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten… our natural food is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food.” Note that the Bahá’í teachings expect this to be a process, and do not demand that people reject meat instantly. The I.P.C.C. observes that some people, for medical reasons, would find an immediate transfer to a vegetarian diet difficult. Bahá’u’lláh’s Son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, made the same point, and said that people who are weak could eat meat. There is the additional point that people living in very harsh environments, such as deep snow, deserts, high mountain ranges and tiny islands, cannot produce enough plant-based food to survive, and cannot make this change yet.
On the other hand, there are some societies which do not eat meat, and the people living in them are more aware of what foods are required to provide them with enough protein and traces of necessary minerals. Likewise there are many individual vegetarians and vegans who have the same knowledge.  

So – what is a balanced diet? People will be able to improve on my suggestions, as I have no expertise in this field whatsoever! My understanding is that we need carbohydrates, ideally grains such as wheat, rice, millet or oats. Fruit – there is a huge choice! We need vegetables, which seems to mean any edible plant parts except the seed or fruit – so edible leaves, stems, roots, etc. And we need some protein. Many of us tend to get this from meat, but we can obtain it from cheese, nuts, or from pulses, such as peas, beans or lentils. Crucial to this seems to be variety. I had a friend who was told by somebody to eat grapes: grapes were good for you. So he ate grapes – for breakfast, lunch and tea, as far as I could make out. After some weeks, his body reacted violently against this, and he became allergic to grapes, with very unfortunate results. The I.P.C.C. considers that we should eat a balanced diet, with rather less meat, and using our common sense, we should become healthier – as will the planet!

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P.S. I haven’t mentioned food miles, or the many other things that we can each do to reduce our carbon footprint, but I didn't want the post to be too long!



Saturday, 24 August 2019

Let’s make it work


Jimmy Broadhouse, who cuts grass for a living, was so pleased with the appearance of the local council’s playing field after he had finished, that he took a photograph of it, and posted it on Twitter. He wrote: “It might only be a council field next to the tip, but, to the kids round here playing football, it’s Wembley. So I always cut it like it is.”

For those who do not live in England, this might require a little explanation. “The tip” is the council refuse site, adjacent to the field. “Kids” are actually children, and “Wembley” is shorthand for the Wembley Stadium, which belongs to the Football Association and is the home of the England national football team. The message suggests that, for the sake of the local children, who play their own football (“soccer”) on this field, he tries to mow the grass to the perfection required of the most prestigious pitch in the country.

The tweet has been seen over a million times, and was the cause of Mr Broadhouse being invited to help prepare the pitch at the Wembley Stadium for a special match between the famous teams of Liverpool and Manchester City. But it is the spirit behind Mr Broadhouse’s remark that has captured most attention. In my last blog post (“I am from the Windows company…”), I stressed the importance of people entering into their work in a spirit of service to other people. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, explaining the Bahá’í view of work, stated that: “In the Bahá’í Cause, arts, sciences and all crafts are counted as worship. The man who makes a piece of note-paper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God.” He continues: “Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.” The same principle obviously also applies to cutting grass, and Mr Broadhouse has definitely shown that spirit of service.

Society is composed of millions of individuals each contributing something to the benefit of mankind, and even to other creatures and to plants. Doing that work in a spirit of dedication and service, like Mr Broadhouse, should raise the quality of what is done, bringing clearer benefit to all. Mowing a field of grass is a time-consuming occupation, and with the wrong attitude could seem tiresome and repetitive. Jimmy Broadhouse obviously does not allow such negative thoughts into his mind as he works up and down the field. On the contrary, he takes a pride in his work.

In other, related, teachings, Bahá’u’lláh calls for us to abolish class distinctions and urges every member of society to work. Idleness is not good for anyone. Like Mr Broadhouse, all must put some effort into the community, rather than thinking they can just take from the community: “It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have… exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God…” (Bahá’u’lláh)

 In addition, the elimination of the extremes of both poverty and wealth is a basic Bahá’í principle. Bahá’u’lláh proposed a “storehouse” system to provide for those who cannot work. Among the specific Bahá’í teachings designed to facilitate the continual redistribution of wealth is the idea of (genuine) profit-sharing within a company. Bahá’u’lláh’s Son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, explained: “…laws and regulations should be enacted which would grant the workers both a daily wage and a share in a fourth or fifth of the profits of the factory… or (a) share in some other way in the profits with the owners.” By directly linking the income of the workers to the profits of the enterprise, more commitment to its success could be expected, and again, a greater quality of dedication should be engendered.

Underlying all these measures is a belief that spiritual values should be given more prominence. As the Bahá’í Writings put it: “The secrets of the whole economic question are Divine in nature, and are concerned with the world of the heart and spirit.” An artist, a sculptor or a musician puts their heart and spirit into their work. So should the builder, the shop assistant, the office worker and the man who mows the council field.

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In April, 2016, I posted a blog (“There *is* a better way) which explains the Storehouse system:
https://paddyvickers.blogspot.com/2016/04/


Saturday, 27 July 2019

“I am from the Windows company…”


The telephone rings. I answer with my number. “I am from the Windows company… I am ringing to tell you that there is a problem with your computer.” The lady does not actually know whether I have a computer. She cannot tell me what type of computer I have. She does not know what Internet Service provider I am with. She does not have my account number, but she is after something. She probably wants to take over my computer for criminal purposes, and is likely to leave me with less money than I started with.

Recently, I have had several calls from the “British Telecom Broadband Blocking Department”, trying to tell me that my Broadband line will be blocked in two hours’ time, because my computer is not secure, or something of the sort. Meanwhile, “Visa Secure” and “your bank” have both taken to telephoning me in the last couple of weeks, with pre-recorded messages telling me that someone has just taken £600 from my bank account. If I want to speak to someone – for example, to tell them that it was not me who took the money out – then I need to “Press One” on my telephone. Then what would happen? What electronic trickery does that set in motion?

How can human beings do this sort of thing to other people? Do they have no conscience, as well as no feelings? Very often, the people who are duped are those who can least afford to lose money. Around one hundred years ago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (the Son of Bahá’u’lláh) said that, “In a time to come, morals will degenerate to an extreme degree.” All these people who spend their time ringing round their fellow human beings with spurious information seem to be manifesting total dishonesty. They have no consideration for their victims, and are showing that they are either immoral or amoral. Maybe they think that they are clever, being able to trick others with their stories.

But we are also being offered other types of dishonesty. There are some politicians across the world who openly offer complete untruths as if they were fact, or steadfastly deny things which are obviously true. Likewise some people circulate completely made-up news online. At the same time, facts supported by research, video evidence and the like, are now summarily dismissed by many as “fake news”! There are newspapers who do not report the facts, because their owners and editors have a separate agenda of their own. Bahá’u’lláh urged newspapers to serve humanity, by attempting to print the truth: “The pages of swiftly-appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world. They reflect the deeds and the pursuits of divers peoples and kindreds. They both reflect them and make them known. They are a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech. This is an amazing and potent phenomenon. However, it behoveth the writers thereof to be purged from the promptings of evil passions and desires and to be attired with the raiment of justice and equity. They should enquire into situations as much as possible and ascertain the facts, then set them down in writing.” The same principle must surely apply to online news.

Meanwhile, supposedly bona fide companies such as banks lure customers in with an openly stated (and lucrative) rate of interest. After a few months, the rate is changed, downwards, with complete disregard for the effect on the customers involved. Other companies, utility companies for example, attract new customers with a lower rate of charges, but leave their existing customers on a higher rate. What they are actually doing is charging their loyal customers a higher price for the same services. Loyalty is being penalised by such companies! Bahá’u’lláh emphasised trustworthiness as essential for the promotion of all human enterprise: “Trustworthiness is the greatest portal leading unto the tranquillity and security of the people. In truth the stability of every affair hath depended and doth depend upon it.” If we cannot trust one another we cannot build a successful society.

Some people do not seem to realise that the good of the part is to be found in the good of the whole. In the Bahá’í view, children should be raised with the idea that they are part of society, and should be contributing towards it, rather than taking from it. For this reason, Bahá’í communities institute neighbourhood children’s classes, based on the promotion of virtues, such as honesty, trustworthiness, empathy, generosity, kindness and so on.

There needs to be the sense of all mankind co-operating, working together, as one. Each should be trying to promote the well-being of their fellow human beings, rather than trying to take money off them. People should be in gainful employment, not involved in illicit activities. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, explaining the Bahá’í view of work, stated that: “In the Bahá’í Cause, arts, sciences and all crafts are counted as worship. The man who makes a piece of note-paper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.”

There is also the teaching in all religions, known as the Golden Rule, in which people are advised: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This should have prevented people, in any culture, from trying to trick other people out of money. Bahá’u’lláh expresses this in even sharper contrast: “Blessed is he who preferreth his neighbour to himself.”

If everyone tried to follow that rule of behaviour, the world would be blessed with much more kindness, and much less trickery, and we would all prosper together.



Saturday, 13 July 2019

Keeping the balance


However short-sighted mankind’s treatment of the planet may be, the beauty of nature will reassert itself. Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed this truth in the nineteenth century, when He said:
“All praise be to God Who hath adorned the world with an ornament, and arrayed it with a vesture, of which it can be despoiled by no earthly power, however mighty its battalions, however vast its wealth, however profound its influence.” I have always found this very reassuring. We can never totally destroy life on this planet, but if we don’t keep within a natural balance, the planet could change drastically, with much of it becoming unfit for human habitation. Unfortunately, there are some political leaders who consider our natural environment to be of little consequence, not understanding our total dependence on our environment to support human life.

The forests of the world are its green lungs. Trees take in carbon dioxide, of which we currently have too much in the atmosphere, and give out oxygen, which humans most definitely need. Ever since Europeans first landed in South America, its forests have been cut back. The largest of these forests are in Brazil, where there are still nearly a million indigenous people living in the forest. Brazilian law gives them rights in theory, but these are not always carried into practice. The recent election of a new Brazilian president, who gives precedence to the perceived short-term needs of business interests, has accelerated the rate at which the forest is being destroyed. This is of course at the same time as the Paris Agreement of 2016 has inaugurated massive programmes of tree-planting world-wide, and some researchers are saying that restoring this natural vesture of the world is the single most important move that can be made to help protect us from more severe climate change. Of course, this will be nowhere near enough on its own, we need to reduce harmful emissions drastically too, but it is an essential part of the solution. Over the last few thousand years, humanity has been gradually removing forest in many parts of the world, to make way for agriculture, houses and so on, but it is becoming clear that rapid action is necessary to restore the balance. A “Great Green Wall” of trees is being planted across Africa, from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the East. Pakistan has planted a billion trees already, and has adopted a new target of ten billion trees in the next five years. In one state in India, sixty-six million trees were planted in a single day, by well over a million volunteers. But however wonderful these results of the Paris Accord will be for the future of the planet, the trees will take perhaps thirty years to reach a size at which they will make a big difference to the balance of gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Each forest is a great resource for humanity. It provides wood for fuel, for homes, for furniture and other purposes. It provides nuts and fruits for us to eat. It provides thousands of species of plants, including potentially medicinal plants. It was when malaria was accidentally transplanted into South America that a cure was discovered. Quinine occurs naturally in a south American plant, and the cure was discovered by Native Americans. But what we take from the forest has to be subject to the law of moderation. Bahá’u’lláh advised: “It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to exercise moderation in all things. Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence.” At present, humans tend to think that economic growth should be never-ending, whereas what is most needed is for the lives of the poorest to be made more comfortable.

A Bahá’í sees nature as part of God’s plan for our care and well-being. As Bahá’u’lláh puts it: “Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator… Nature is God's Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.” The planet itself is part of the natural world, and nature is part of our planetary home. Some years ago, the Universal House of Justice, which is the elected body of the Bahá’ís, called upon the world at large to add World Citizenship into the school curriculum, as a response to Bahá’u’lláh’s statement that “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” This subject would teach our young people to regard themselves as citizens of the world, with all which that entails. Such an education would, for instance, help the people who live near forests to understand how they are keeping them on behalf of the whole of humanity, not to mention the planet’s wildlife. The fact that many people who live in countries with rainforests have no idea how special these forests and their wildlife are, was brought home to me very forcefully recently. My brother teaches educated people from Nigeria who come to Britain for various purposes. He finds that they are simply not aware of the importance of what their country holds. On one occasion, he was speaking to a group about the remaining forests in Nigeria, and the demise of the African elephant. One of these highly educated professional people said, “Why do we always have to hear about the African elephant? Why can’t we hear about how you treat your elephants?” My brother, who was totally taken aback, managed to respond with: “I am very sorry. We managed to kill all our elephants about thirty-seven thousand years ago!” His audience was amazed - they did not regard elephants as special at all!

In the same way, most of us in the UK do not realise that we use far more than our fair share of the world’s resources and that we need to reduce this drastically. Bahá’u’lláh said: “Take from this world only to the measure of your needs, and forgo that which exceedeth them.” Unfortunately, we cut down most of our forests in the UK many years ago, so, in this respect, our contribution must be to plant as many trees in our country as is practically possible.

An important part of World Citizenship is surely highlighting the different responsibilities of different countries as part of the coherent whole. Each nation needs to understand the importance of what it has, and what they are keeping in trust for all of mankind. This would be a big part of achieving a sense of balance in the life of the world. Bahá’u’lláh, speaking about the common desire to put one’s nation above all others, stated: “Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”

There is currently a strange situation. People in some countries who have forests nearby wish to destroy them, to create more grazing land or more arable crops; while people in other countries which are suffering from droughts and flooding are rushing to plant saplings which will take years to grow. This problem will not be solved unless all mankind is in unity, with some form of global co-operation and co-ordination established. The good of the part should be seen in the good of the whole. Bahá’u’lláh puts it like this: “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” If we work together we can combat climate change, and one aspect of this is protecting and increasing our forest cover.

The well-being of mankind demands that the rate of deforestation should be drastically reduced, and the natural balance should be restored.

               

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Television or reality?



Recently, in the United Kingdom, a gentleman appeared on a “reality television” programme called “The Jeremy Kyle Show”. The show specialises in challenging people over their behaviour, and this gentleman was challenged to take a lie detector test. He “failed” the test, and was apparently so distraught by this that he seems to have taken his own life a few days later.

Many of these programmes have concentrated on relationships – between husband and wife, parent and child, and so on. They therefore reflect the many unresolved relationships which can develop within families. As society has somewhat lost its relationship with God, so people often put their whole faith in other people, making themselves vulnerable when other people’s acts fall short of their expectations. Families, like the world as a whole, need to be in harmony. Selfishness, or self-centredness, can disrupt the ordered life of a family. According to Abdul-Bahá: “The family, being a human unit, must be educated according to the rules of sanctity. All the virtues must be taught the family. The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother - none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary... All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved… the unity of the family must be sustained.”

In the Bahá’í view, we all need to work towards unity, rather than concentrating on the faults of others. We need to be able to accept people as they are, rather than criticising them for not being perfect. Abdu’l-Bahá said: “If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, look at the ten and forget the one. And if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, look at the one and forget
the ten.” He said that we should “never allow ourselves to speak one unkind word about another.” Each of us is unique, and we should recognise and welcome this human diversity. He also said, “In reality all are members of one human family - children of one Heavenly Father. Humanity may be likened unto the vari-coloured flowers of one garden. There is unity in diversity. Each sets off and enhances the other's beauty.”

Over the last few years, television has shown a lot of “reality” TV shows. People have been put into artificial situations – wife swaps, living in a house with about nine total strangers, living on an island with unfamiliar conditions, and so on – and the programme-makers, who do not seem to be interested in promoting the well-being of every member of humankind, rely on the fact that something will go wrong between the participants. Even preparing a meal has become a competition, with artificial time restraints and with observers present trying to make it more difficult than it should be. The meal is then critically judged, rather than thankfully consumed as something to keep us alive. And yet all this is asserted as “reality”.

The Bahá’í Faith teaches that in addition to the material world within which we live, there are spiritual planes of existence, which form a higher reality. Mankind was created to grow spiritually, to be ready to progress in spiritual ways. We should be concentrating not on the shortcomings of other people, but on developing good qualities in ourselves, so that we can grow more towards the perfection of God. Only if we align ourselves with the underlying Cause of the Universe will we be achieving any sort of reality – it does not come out of the television set.

[Picture courtesy of Getty Images.]

Friday, 26 April 2019

Krishna, The Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad


On Easter Sunday, 2019, a series of explosions took place at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Over 250 people were killed. Clearly, the Christian community was being specifically targeted, and the terrorists probably thought that the hotels tended to receive visitors from the Western world.

Most of the Sri Lankan population belongs to one of the four older religions of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam or Christianity. Although much-misunderstood by outsiders, Hinduism has at its core a moral code, enshrined in a book called “The Laws of Manu”. Many, but not all, Hindus regard Krishna as an “Incarnation of Vishnu” – in other words, as a manifestation of God in person. According to the text of the “Bhagavad-Gita”, Krishna Himself (or the divine spirit which He represented) said: “Whenever there is a decline of righteousness or religion, and a rise of unrighteousness… then I send forth Myself. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age.”

Gautama Buddha, the Enlightened One, taught The Middle Way, between materialism and extreme asceticism. A major part of His Teaching was the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes Right Understanding, Right Mindfulness and Right Conduct. In the Buddha’s words: “He in whom there is truth, virtue, pity, restraint, moderation, he who is free from impurity and is wise, he is called an elder.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, discussing teachings on personal behaviour, explained that “The real teaching of Buddha is the same as the teaching of Jesus Christ. The teachings of all the Prophets are the same in character.”

So, in the same way as the Buddha spent His time emphasising how His followers should behave, Jesus did so too. Much of Jesus’s teaching was in the form of parables. These were stories which illustrated a point of understanding or of conduct. Jesus taught: “Love thy neighbour as thyself”. He said: Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them! … Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them His children!” Bahá’u’lláh, referring to Jesus, stated: “Know thou that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By sacrificing Himself, however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee.”

Muhammad, recognised by a fifth of mankind as another of God’s Messengers, was likewise very meek in His behaviour towards others. He suffered years of persecution in silence, and never retaliated. He only allowed actions of self-defence when the entire city of Medina was being attacked. He set out Teachings on how both the individual and the community should behave: “Take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law.” A high standard of behaviour was expected from His followers: “Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.”

The Bahá’í Faith recognises the divine spirit present in all four of these Founders of religion. Some of the practical details of each religion will be different, because they appeared in different contexts, and at different times. But Bahá’u’lláh said: “If thou wilt observe with discriminating eyes, thou wilt behold Them all abiding in the same tabernacle, soaring in the same heaven, seated upon the same throne, uttering the same speech, and proclaiming the same Faith.” In other words, in essence, they are all One.

Bahá’u’lláh warned against religious fanaticism and hatred, which He described as “a world-devouring fire”. He urged people to, “consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship”. What the world really needs now is for people to recognise the essential oneness of the world’s religions, which will in turn help people to recognise the oneness and wholeness of the entire human race.

(Photograph courtesy of Getty Pictures.)

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In March, 2019, I wrote a blog post about the attack on Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, under the title, “Why?”




Friday, 29 March 2019

Why?


A national memorial service has been held in Christchurch, New Zealand, to remember the lives lost in the mosque shootings of 15th March. At 1.40 p.m. on that day, a man opened fire on the worshippers at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, apparently trying to kill as many of them as possible. He then drove to the Linwood mosque, where he repeated his actions. At these two buildings, he managed to put an end to fifty people’s lives.  Apparently on his way to a third target, his car was rammed by a police car, and the man was arrested, after a struggle. Why did he do this? He seemed to regard the Muslim worshippers as foreigners, as strangers, as interlopers.

The theme of the memorial service was “We Are One”, which is exactly the Bahá’í attitude.   Bahá’u’lláh teaches the oneness of all humanity, saying: “The incomparable Creator hath created all men from one same substance…” He teaches the oneness of all religions, writing: “There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subject of one God.”

Bahá’u’lláh stresses that all the religions were given to man for the same reason, which is the spread of good: “The purpose underlying the revelation of every heavenly Book, nay, of every divinely-revealed verse, is to endue all men with righteousness and understanding, so that peace and tranquillity may be firmly established amongst them.” Although, over the centuries, this purpose has often been lost, Bahá’u’lláh now re-emphasises it, and makes it central to all human behaviour: “O people! Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.”

Bahá’u’lláh teaches that all humanity is descended from one original stock. His Son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, explained how evolution is God’s chosen method, and asserts the oneness of mankind as follows: “God, the Almighty, has created all mankind... He has fashioned them all from the same elements; they are descended from the same race and live upon the same globe. He has created them to dwell beneath the one heaven… He has made no distinction in mercies and graces among His children.” The Universal House of Justice, which is the elected world body of the Bahá’ís, wrote: “Anthropology, physiology, psychology, recognise only one human species… Recognition of this truth requires abandonment of prejudice of every kind – race, class, colour, creed… everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others.” 

The Bahá’í teachings warn against the danger of becoming too involved in contradictory opinions and viewpoints: “Do not allow differences of opinion, or diversity of thought to separate you from your fellowmen, or to be the cause of dispute, hatred and strife in your hearts. Rather, search diligently for the truth and make all men your friends.”

And as for the question, who has the right to live in New Zealand? The native Maoris, and the incoming British-based population, have accepted people from many other countries onto the islands. Bahá’u’lláh made it clear that land belongs not to one people, but to all people. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stated it as follows: “This earth is one home and native land. God has created mankind with equal endowment and right to live upon the earth.” This is the basic Bahá’í principle of seeing the planet as one, as the home for all mankind. As Bahá’u’lláh put it: “The earth is one country, and mankind its citizens.”

The teaching that we should be kind to others even extends to ensuring that we do not even hurt anybody’s feelings: “Beware, beware, lest ye offend the feelings of another…”

So why did this man kill so many of his fellow human beings? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “All men are the leaves and fruit of one same tree… they all have the same origin… The only differences that keep them apart are these: there are the children who need guidance, the ignorant to be instructed, the sick to be tended and healed…” It seems that this man did not understand the fundamental truth that we are all one human race. Perhaps he is one of the lost souls who need guiding to a better understanding.

(Photograph courtesy of Reuters)