Baha’i Faith and Social Justice

By Lori Arsenault

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”

“The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.”

“We cherish the hope that the light of justice may shine

upon the world and sanctify it from tyranny.”

These quotes were said by Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baháʼí Faith. He appeared in Persia in the mid-1800’s amidst a society that was considered the most corrupt and backward of that time. He was persecuted and exiled because His teachings about justice, love, and unity threatened the stranglehold clergy had on an ignorant population and upset a corrupt government. Yet, Baha’u’llah endured a lifetime of imprisonment, persecution, and sorrow so that humankind could build anew the whole world.

So, what are some of Baha’u’llah’s teachings that will bring about social justice for this New World? 

One challenge facing us worldwide is recognizing the truth of the oneness of humanity. Baha’u’llah states, “It is incumbent upon all the peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness.” Presently, our country is undergoing many trials with racial, political, and economic injustices. The Baha’I faith practices work to eliminate these prejudices from our lives, transforming our individual lives and the greater society as well. Baha’u’llah states, “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship.”

Central to achieving a just society is understanding Baha’u’llah’s teaching about God and religion. The Baha’I faith believes in one God. That the peoples of the world, of all races and religions, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God. They also believe that all religions are part of a larger one religion. This one religion, their opinion, has been known by different names and has unfolded through successive Manifestations. Among these many Manifestations have been Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, and most recently, The Bab and Baha’u’llah. They explain it by calling it progressive revelation. Each Manifestation comes from the same heavenly Source and was suited to heal the ills of the age in which He appeared. In essence, each of these religions, which came from the same Source, is one. Baha’u’llah states, “This is the changeless Faith of God. Eternal in the past, eternal in the future.” Each religion has contributed to the Baha’u’llah’s statement that all men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. Humans are on a constant path of spiritual growth, together.

Another teaching that centers on global unity and justice is universal education. Both males and females are to be educated. It is not an option. If parents cannot afford to educate their children, then the society must see to it that they are educated.

Another teaching is gender equality. Both genders are to be given equal opportunities to develop their potentials and capacities.

The same idea is in regard to science and religion. The mind is meant to be used in search of truth. To reject a scientific fact and cling to an outdated or harmful ritual or tradition would make religion superstitious and a fantasy. On the other hand, scientific knowledge and its use has to be informed by the morals and ethics of religion, otherwise it falls into materialism. 

This is a minute glimpse at the voluminous writings and teachings in the Baha’i Faith. I am happy to direct anyone with more interest to more resources. I’ll end this article with a quote from the Universal House of Justice, the world governing body of the Baha’i Faith, located in Haifa, Israel, on Mount Carmel. 

“Opposition to a newly revealed truth is a common matter of human history; it repeats itself in every age. But of equal historical consistency is the fact that nothing can prevail against an idea whose time has come. The time has arrived for freedom of belief, for harmony between science and religion, faith and reason, for the advancement of women, for freedom from prejudice of every kind, for mutual respect between diverse peoples and nations, and indeed the unity of the entire human race.”