By Minhaj Khan
Jun 14, 2012
Abdu'l-Baha, son of Baha'u'llah, founder of the Baha'i Faith, states that "of all the realities of existence, the most honoured and cherished is the wisdom and intellect possessed by humanity. Philosophy, art, sciences, inventions and industry all emanate from it." He asserts that the happiness and prosperity of human beings lies in the development of their capacity and faculties rather than the selfish pursuit of interests going beyond their immediate needs.
The evolution and manifestation of this reality within civilisation is concomitant with the development of the same within individuals. Development of these latent capacities requires a change of direction towards spirituality in our hearts and minds. That is, experience spirituality through conscious knowledge expressed in action.
Education is pivotal for this transformation to happen. Rather than focus simply on technical information, the educational system must also concentrate on building capacity and promoting consciousness evolution in children and youth. The general attitude is to view pupils as empty receptacles waiting to be filled with information. How-ever, children are sensitive human beings with a great capacity to learn and progress, provided they are taught with sincere compassion and guided to focus on Self-realisation.
A humble posture of learning is necessary in order to overcome traditional expectations of development - such as those relying merely on figures of economic growth. Wealth is an indicator of great success within society, provided it is evenly distributed among individuals and not concentrated in the hands of a few. The primary focus of economic activity needs to expand towards financial prosperity and happiness of the collective along with environmental sustainability rather than only monetary profits.
The Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha'i Faith, has stated that "a fresh look to the problem is essential, one which relies on consultation with experts from a wide spectrum of disciplines, devoid of economic and ideological polemics, in order to foster a new universal attitude from those spiritual verities which can tackle the extremes of wealth and poverty."
The setting up of legislative assemblies in a democracy is praiseworthy. However, leaders should possess innate qualities required for good governance, rather than relying on charisma or traditional authority for maintaining their hegemony over people. The remedy to this dilemma is the democratic selection of leaders who are righteous, honest, intelligent, vigorous and incorruptible.
In addition, qualification and expertise with regard to their duties must go hand-in-hand. Rather than continue as houses of debate and contention, parliaments need to convert themselves into assemblies of consultation and progress so that there is more Samvad that adds value to discussions.
Above all, unified and mutually empowered forms of governance can be applied when individuals within institutions are free from harmful habits such as backbiting and fault-finding, which poison the atmosphere igniting hatred and divisions. In a spiritual atmosphere, individuals take up mutual responsibility for mistakes, working in a cohesive manner to rectify the situation. This is a Baha'i perspective.