We celebrate International Day of Peace on 21 September, thus, an opportune time to reflect on the vital role our families can play in promoting global peace.
The family unit is where good morals and attitudes towards peaceful co-existence can be developed. A loving, unified, vital and joyful, family can provide the ideal conditions for the well-being of its members in all facets of life – physical, spiritual, mental and emotional. Families also lay the foundation for society’s cohesion and advancement.
Strengthening families is essential for the advancement of civilization. Healthy family relationships are of utmost importance to the well-being of the entire human race. As a microcosm of the human race, the family is a key instrument for establishing peace.
The Universal House of Justice, the the governing council of the Bahá’í international community states: “The family unit, the nucleus of human society, constitutes a space within which praiseworthy morals and essential capacities must be developed, for the habits and patterns of conduct nurtured in the home are carried into the workplace, into the social and political life of the country, and finally into the arena of international relations”.
Education for promoting peace
Education required for promoting peace must begin in the family, where children from the earliest age learn about the fundamental oneness of humanity and overcoming prejudices that divide us – whether based on race, nationality, religion, class or gender.
The social and spiritual values that our children learn at home will apply not only in the context of the family, but outside in the local and national community, as well as in the world community itself.
Our children should be encouraged to associate with people of all races and religions and to appreciate the different cultures and the contributions different people have to make. We should teach them the concept of the oneness of humanity and to regard themselves as citizens of the world. Nurturing in our children an appreciation for the richness and importance of the world’s diverse cultural, religious and social systems will help them to free themselves of prejudices.
It is important that education, whether at home or at school, guides our children in their moral empowerment and not just in their intellectual development.
The governing council of the Bahá’í international community states that “It is the duty of all parents to exert their utmost to ensure the spiritual education of their children and to provide them with the training needed to live a fruitful life of service to their country and, indeed, to all of humanity. Success in this crucial matter requires fostering a loving and constructive environment at home, based on the love of God and adherence to His laws. This entails abandoning all forms of prejudice, rejecting entirely the odious habit of backbiting, stressing the vital importance of the oneness of mankind, and inculcating the spirit of selfless service”.
The concept of world citizenship, a love for humanity as a whole, and to see beauty and harmony in diversity, should be integrated into our educational programmes.
A global vision and love for humanity
Raising children, who can assume responsibility for both their own intellectual and spiritual growth and participate in building a better world, is a fundamental role of the family. We need to nurture in our children love for all people and instil tolerance of differences. Our children should grow up with an acute sense of justice, and empathy for others. The vision held by a family should be a global one and one of unity of humanity.
It is important to ensure that excessive attention to family interests would not lead to a narrow social outlook, which could be harmful to the broader community. Today many stable and united families, because of intolerance towards one or another segment of society, instill in their children prejudices that stifle their love for humanity and hamper their sense of justice. Through such upbringing our children can become indifferent to the suffering of others or to regard violence and oppression as justified, even to contribute towards it.
The governing council of the Bahá’í international community states: “Children must be so raised as to regard every soul, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, or any other affiliation, as a fellow human being and to hold dear the words [of Bahá’u’lláh] that capture the spirit of the age: “The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.” … The family unit provides an environment within which such lofty and world-embracing principles can be taught and nurtured. It is the matrix in which generation after generation can be reared in the conviction that the well-being of the individual is inextricably bound to the progress and well-being of others”.
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OPINION: Flora Teckie