Educating Children To Build A Violence-Free World

A Bahá’í Perspective

The world is, once more, commemorating ‘16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’, between 25 November and 10 December.

‘16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’, is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute held in 1991. The dates, 25 November, International Day Against Violence Against Women and 10 December, International Human Rights Day, were chosen as “bookends” of the 16 days in order to link violence against women and girls to human rights, and to emphasize that gender-based violence is a violation of human rights.

Violence against women and girls – with its severe impact on their physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being – is one of the most widespread abuses of human rights. Abusive practices against them is justified in the context of cultural norms, religious beliefs and unfounded scientific theories and assumptions. 

It is the Bahá’í view thata commitment to the establishment of full equality between men and women is central to the success of efforts to eradicate violence against women and girls. Creating a violence-free family and society requires commitment to gender equality, which encourages communication, mutual trust and respect. 

In our efforts to eradicate gender-based violence, we need to educate our children, both at home and in school, with values that promote equality and justice.  It is our responsibility as parents and also institutions to make sure that the younger generation is raised free from prejudice against women and girls.

According to the statement of the Bahá’í International Community, violence prevention strategies must include “cultivating in them [children] a sense of dignity as well as a responsibility for the well-being of their family, community, and the world”.

Moral and spiritual development ofour children

Prevention of violence, in addition to commitment to gender equality, requires adherence to moral principles. Drawing their inspiration and authority from religion, moral and ethical values serve to define our attitudes and to motivate and orient our behaviour. 

As stated in the Bahá’í Writings:“…there are two safeguards that protect man from wrongdoing. One is the law which punishes the criminal; but the law prevents only the manifest crime and not the concealed sin; whereas the ideal safeguard, namely, the religion of God, prevents both the manifest and the concealed crime, trains man, educates morals, compels the adoption of virtues … But by religion is meant that which is ascertained by investigation and not that which is based on mere imitation, the foundation of Divine Religions and not human imitations”.

Of course, when we talk about moral values, we shouldtake note of the following words ofthe Bahá’í International Community:“Promoting specific morals or values may be controversial, as such efforts are often associated with repressive and narrowly defined visions of the common good. Moral capabilities are essential, but the means to develop them must be consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, aimed at fostering the spiritual, social and intellectual development of all people. Such capabilities can be taught in schools but will not be effective unless they take root in family and community”.  

The family is the environment in which our children receive their earliest and most important education. Parents can play a great role in reducing and eradicating violence in the family and society by paying closer attention to the moral and spiritual development of their children. Love and tolerance, justice and fairness, encouragement and faith, are values that are learned and experienced in the family which are crucial in reducing violence in the family and in the broader social context.

Children must be taught about gender equality and to be just towards both men and women, and indeed the whole human race.  This will help in protecting them from prejudices that are currently the greatest cause for violence. They should be taught to have high aims, to contemplate the consequences of their decisions and the results of their action.

Need for new strategies and fresh models

Considering that, even after many years of work, effort and money spent on the effort, still no holistic solution has been successfully used to eradicate violence against women and girls,the need to create the spiritual and emotional environments that will enable both men and women to reach their full potential cannot be over emphasized.  Education is one important way of achieving our full potential, reducing the level of violence and increasing cooperation.  Moral, spiritual, material and practical education are not only a fundamental right but a practical necessity. 

In the Bahá’í view: “Our challenge is to search out new strategies and adopt fresh models that will encourage a healthier, more cooperative society at all levels. We need to move consciously away from patterns of force and aggressivity and towards methods of consultation and peace-making”,  and “alongside critical changes in the legal, political and economic architecture slowly taking shape, the development of individuals’ moral and spiritual capabilities is an essential element in the as yet elusive quest to prevent the abuse of women and girls around the world”. 

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OPINION: Flora Teckie