Sunday, 7 August 2016

We come together as one

Thousands of athletes and sports fans have arrived in Rio de Janeiro for the 31st Olympic Games. A rainbow of peoples from 206 countries and territories will be participating in a rainbow of different sports. In some ways, it is a glimpse of the future, the endlessly diverse family of man united in a common enterprise.

The lead-up to the Games has also been a mirror to the challenges and trials of our age. Rio has shown us the need for planning and for concerted action, but it has also shown the need for just and considerate treatment of the poor. It has shown the need for better disease control, and has highlighted the disastrous consequences of crime. In some sports we have also been shown the fundamental need for trustworthiness to underlie everyone’s actions, and we have also been shown that an excessive nationalism plays a part in undermining trustworthiness itself.

Alongside the deliberate portrayal of human diversity, and the need to cherish and nurture our minorities, Brazil’s opening ceremony chose to highlight the environment, and the need to protect it. The ideal expressed was that we should be at peace with the planet. The Olympic rings, made from trees, were seen to grow from seeds, and each athlete was given a seed from one of Brazil’s tree species, communicating the idea of replanting some of what has been lost.

Although the Bahá’í community is better known for its efforts to unite the religions and to unite mankind, the need to preserve the world’s ecology is also part of the Bahá’í vision. The Bahá’í writings say: “We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other…”

In 1992, Rio de Janeiro was the venue for a huge Summit and Global Forum on preserving the Earth’s resources, and the Bahá’ís had a very visible presence there. The Bahá’í community supplied a large number of the volunteers and contributed to the debates within the Summit. The Bahá’ís designed and created a Peace Monument, as a contribution to the Earth Summit. This is in the shape of an hour-glass, into which representatives from each of the countries placed a small quantity of their soil. Engraved upon the monument are the words of Bahá’u’lláh: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

The Olympics represent something special in human life. Every few years we remind ourselves, through the holding of the Games, that we are all endowed with different talents and capabilities. We can, and should, come together as one human family – not just to show the great diversity in the human race, but to celebrate our oneness.


In a previous blog, I have touched upon the related subject of climate change – (see “A climate of change” [August 2015]); and on the subject of trustworthiness – (see “You can cheat people, but you cannot cheat nature” [February 2016]).