A Bahá’í Perspective
As we mark the World Day of Social Justice on February 20, we may be asking whether we are getting any closer to global social justice, and what the requirements are to achieving this.
We can observe all around us that there is a common yearning for order and a just society. However, global social justice cannot be attained unless complete freedom from prejudice of race, class, gender, creed or colour is universally realized.
Social justice implies the right of everyone to live in dignity in a peaceful, and harmonious world. And to be just implies that everyone, from whatever background they may be, is treated equally and with dignity. Bahá’u’lláh says: “No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquillity of the nations depend upon it”.
In order to have a peaceful social order we need to observe justice individually and in our social structures. At an individual level, justice calls for fair-mindedness in our judgments; for equity in our treatment of others; and application of justice every day, in everything we do and towards all our fellow human beings. At the group level, a concern for justice is crucial in collective decision-making, because it is the only means by which unity of thought and action can be achieved.
It is theBahá’í view that, “The emergence of a peaceful and just social order animated by moral principle is contingent upon a fundamental redefinition of all human relationships – among individuals themselves, between human society and the natural world, between the individual and the community, between individual citizens and their governing institutions”. It is also conditional to: “just legislation in accord with the Divine laws which guarantee the happiness of society and protect the rights of all mankind, … laws insuring the integrity of the members of society and their equality before the law”.
There is a close link between justice and unity
Justice and unity are reciprocal in their effect. The chief instrument for the transformation of society and the achievement of world peace and unity, Bahá’u’lláh asserts, is the establishment of justice in the affairs of humanity. “The light of men is Justice”, He states, “The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men”.
The unity that must be at the basis of creating a peaceful and just social order, is a unity which embraces and honours diversity. Oneness and diversity are complementary and inseparable. It is not by suppression of differences that one will arrive at unity, but rather, by an increased awareness of, and respect for, the values of each culture, and indeed of each individual.
Justice is the quality that enables us to distinguish truth from falsehood. In the sight of God, Bahá’u’lláh says, justice is “the best beloved of all things”, since it permits each one of us to see with our own eyes rather than the eyes of others, to know through our own knowledge rather than the knowledge of our neighbour or our group (race, nation, ethnic background or religion).
Investigating truth individually, to see with our own eyes rather than the eyes of others, to know through our own knowledge rather than the knowledge of our neighbour, will lead to unity because as stated in the Bahá’í Writings: “Truth is one when it is independently investigated, it does not accept division. Therefore the independent investigation of truth will lead to the oneness of the world of humanity”.
The well-being of everyone on the planet must be considered
Justice is not only punishing the wrongdoers. The Bahá’í International Community in its statement entitled ‘The Prosperity of Humankind’ asserts that, justice is “the practical expression of awareness that, in the achievement of human progress, the interests of the individual and those of society are inextricably linked … . Concern for justice protects the task of defining progress from the temptation to sacrifice the well-being of the generality of humankind – and even of the planet itself – to the advantages which technological breakthroughs can make available to privileged minorities”.
The Bahá’í International Community continues to say that concern for justicemust be paramount in how we build our communities, as, “in design and planning, it ensures that limited resources are not diverted to the pursuit of projects extraneous to a community’s essential social or economic priorities. Above all, only development programs that are perceived as meeting their needs and as being just and equitable in objective can hope to engage the commitment of the masses of humanity, upon whom implementation depends”.
It is the Bahá’í view that, justice must be applied internationally and towards everyone – not only locally or nationally – if unity of humanity is to become a reality. Only when everyone in society can trust that they are given equal rights and opportunities, then qualities such as honesty, a affinity for hard work, and a spirit of cooperation can be harnessed and used for the accomplishment of collective goals.
For feedback please contact:
OPINION: Flora Teckie