Baha'is Address Issues of Concern to the World's Aboriginal Peoples

Updated: Aug 22, 2019


Indigenous members of the Baha'i religion in British Columbia.

The suffering of human beings during the twentieth century has nowhere been more acutely felt than in the lives, families, and communities of the world's aboriginal or indigenous peoples. To right the wrongs experienced by aboriginal peoples is a daunting challenge. The experience of the Bahá'í international community, however, provides a measure of hope that humanity can find solutions to the difficulties that have brought such intense suffering and can embark on a process of healing and social development. The solidarity of all the world's peoples will be both a consequence of that process and its most crucial enabling factor.


Generating the will to engage in this process of healing requires a fundamental change in our understanding of human society. Such a change begins with an appreciation of spiritual principles, including the fundamental truth of our age that humanity is one. Such an appreciation engenders a shift in consciousness that helps us identify other key features of the transformational process necessary if we are to reconstitute society to extend and deepen justice and increase social unity. Issues deserving attention in this transformational process include self-determination and local community governance, the nature of social and economic development, the significance of healing, the equality of women and men, the central place of the family, the need for rapid evolution of legislation so that diversity of culture and unity of all peoples become the touchstones of human progress and civilization, and the crucial role of education.


Spiritual Principles


The Bahá'í community has had over one hundred years of experience applying spiritual principles to challenges of community development. During a period of rapid increase in numbers the world over, the Bahá'í community has seen a particularly keen response among indigenous peoples; it is in no small part because of their adherence to the message of the Bahá'í Faith that recent demographic surveys indicate it to be the second most widely spread religion on the planet. While Bahá'ís live in virtually every country and count members from almost every background imaginable, a disproportionate number of the Faith's approximately five million followers are indigenous peoples.


That fact provides ample evidence of the appeal that universal spiritual principles hold for aboriginal peoples. The appeal begins with the Bahá'í conception of human nature as transcendent and moral standards as the primary laws through which society can advance. It includes a vision of social and economic development that sees human society itself as spiritual and progressive. Throughout all centuries and all cultures human civilization has drawn breath from the divine impulse periodically manifested in the words and actions of prophets and spiritual leaders and reflected both in nature and in human talents and capacities. The sacred is universal and not restricted to one particular culture or tradition, nor to one time period. Far from being empty ideals, spiritual principles are essential foundation stones of healthy communities, and when they are not respected, social breakdown ensues.


When social programs or legislation lack a basis in explicitly articulated principles, they also lack vision and coherence, and the motivation and collective resolve to accomplish desired objectives falter. "Concrete" or "direct" solutions often amount to superficial programs that may provide jobs for social workers, teachers, or civil servants but produce few lasting results in the attitudes and practices of a people. Only by addressing the spiritual conditions of communities can profound and lasting social change occur.


It is significant that when aboriginal cultures approach the discussion of social problems, leaders and members of the community refer frequently to the Creator and to the human spirit. Yet social, economic, and political theories and practices of the West during the past two to three hundred years have been driven by an excessive and socially corrosive materialism that has, in turn, driven approaches to governance and economic and social development. Failure to appreciate the implications of the gap between these two approaches to social reality explains much of the injustice and misunderstanding between aboriginal peoples and the peoples of dominant cultures.


Ingenuity and free inquiry, industrial productivity, and material success have made many positive contributions to human civilization. There is, however, no greater barrier to progress in achieving social justice and the well-being of aboriginal peoples than an ideology of materialism that lacks consistent and viable moral principles. Bahá'ís are convinced that to effect genuine changes in attitudes and policy and to devise enduring solutions, it is timely to adopt an orientation and approach fundamentally different from the methods generated by the failed assumptions of secularism and materialism.


The sense of superiority inherent in any culture of materialism lies at the heart of the unhappy relationship between aboriginal peoples and the rest of society. Fundamental to genuine spirituality is the recognition of the equality of all human beings, that all are created by the same God, that all have rights before God. Material wealth or might, secular rank or status, do not guarantee moral worth. Only on the basis of a universal spiritual orientation can we begin to re-establish the sense of self-worth, dignity, and nobility that materialism and secularism have eroded. Only with the mutual respect engendered by spiritual values of human nobility and com- passion can relationships be healed. Only through such values can injustice and disrespect, prejudice and discrimination, denial and neglect be eliminated.


Aboriginal peoples have been among the most intensely affected victims of the dominant social forces operating in ignorance, or in systematic neglect, of spiritual principles pivotal to human happiness and the common weal. The social catastrophe that has resulted from several centuries of social experimentation with secular approaches to the governance and conduct of human affairs, including communism and industrial capitalism, gives the surest evidence of the futility of pursuing political and economic plans that are merely the latest version of that same philosophy of social change. Those methods have been pragmatic, not principled; short-term, not visionary. They have been and are still reactive, pushed this way and that by special interests because society has not tried to identify its general interests as an organic whole.


A new set of assumptions and orientations in which the sacred or spiritual replaces the secular as the basis for social, economic, and political action can, Bahá'ís assert, genuinely penetrate and heal society. The generation of policies and legislation that put in place processes of social transformation can only come out of a recognition of the real nature of the human being and human society.


The survival among many aboriginal peoples of an evident religious inclination and transcendent aspiration must be supported and encouraged at official as well as informal levels in whatever programs and policies are developed by nations and international bodies. The existence in many aboriginal communities of strong systems of religious belief and practice represent important resources for social development that must not be overlooked as this century nears its close.

The audience at a symposium, where some 120 people gathered for a series of panel discussions on the past, present, and future of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Oneness of Humanity


Bahá'ís understand many of the complex problems of society to be inevitable features of an historical process that Bahá'u'lláh foresaw would come to dominate the twentieth century. His vision of the eventual integration of humankind and the emergence of a global society in which unity in diversity would be the principal characteristic has been confirmed by the events of this century--accelerating as we near its close. Many of our most acute problems can be resolved if we become conscious of this historical process and respond in ways that take proper account of the oneness of humanity--the principle of social organization for the age now dawning in human history. Failure to understand and make the necessary adjustments in how human affairs are administered on this planet only intensifies the degree of suffering that reaches into the communities of virtually every country and region on earth.

Bahá'ís view the current phase of rapidly changing world conditions in a hopeful way, aware of the anguish created by current chaotic social dislocations but seeing them as part of a long-term process of adjustment, the pain of which can best be alleviated if we become conscious of its nature and direction. The current period of human history is one of those axial periods understood best perhaps in the phrase "the coming of age of humanity." The period of relative isolation of various peoples of the world has ended. We have now collectively entered a new world where boundaries, if they exist at all any more, are no longer impenetrable. The interdependence of humanity with all its diversity of cultures, nations, and peoples will continue to increase. Exclusive sovereignties are no longer possible.


The culmination of this process will be some form of an integrated world economy and political structure in which all of us will feel as much a part of world society as we feel a part of our own community. This is not a hope or a wish. It is a reality apparent in current trends. If we understand this process and act consciously, we will be in a much better position than if we remain unaware of its implications. In that regard, it is important to understand nationalism as a stage of history on the way to a more mature set of human relations on this planet. Nationalism and its cultural variants may be viewed as features important to humanity's adolescence but far less important to its maturity than an overriding consciousness of its essential oneness.


The present wave of nationalism is the culmination of a process born in the nineteenth century. It aggressively asserts the dominance and frequently the uniformity of the nation-state, and it also gives rise to immoderate, often extreme, ethnic and cultural affirmation. It checks the necessary development of local government and blocks the establishment of international institutions and practices.

Bahá'ís see the principle of the oneness of humanity as the pivotal social, economic, and political tenet of our age. However, it is a principle of unity in diversity, where unity is seen to be essential if the diversity of all peoples and cultures is to flourish in place of the dominance of any particular one.

In this conception, the enhancement of diversity is itself a direct measure of unity, and genuine unity is promoted as differences--whether of culture, race, temperament, education, or other categories--are recognized and embraced. Unity does not result from conformism or uniformity--both, it is useful to note, consequences of materialism and nationalism.


If the future of the human race is to witness an increase in justice, humankind will have to establish institutions of governance that respect this principle of unity in diversity and that honor and protect cultural diversity. Such institutions will need to come under the umbrella of a federal system operating at the level of the entire planet in ways that protect cultures, guarantee sufficient levels of autonomy and independence for different peoples, and enhance unity and harmony among all sectors of society.


Achieving a federal system of this kind must also take into account the rapidity and unpredictability of the historical and social processes currently at work so that newly conceived social and political arrangements are as flexible as possible. If properly understood, just as unity and diversity presuppose each other, unity and flexibility are also mutually sustaining prerequisites.


What is striking in the Bahá'í experience around the world is that aboriginal peoples have a keen desire to encounter and enter into just and equitable relationships with other peoples. In the Bahá'í emphasis on unity in diversity, aboriginal peoples find an ideal that matches their own aspirations. Their drive towards self-determination and self-reliance reflects their desire to enter directly into relationships with other peoples without the filter of a dominant culture or government that makes their participation in the global village indirect and secondary.


Unity among the aboriginal peoples and unity with all other peoples of the planet are both vital if justice and social well-being are to be assured. The extent to which new governmental arrangements and structures increase unity at all levels is the surest measure of their viability and usefulness over the longer term. Unity must be considered at the outset of deliberations and planning; it is the only foundation on which problems can be solved.

Self-Determination and the Local Community


Perhaps the most powerful motivation behind the interest in self-determination is the desire of aboriginal peoples--indeed of all peoples--to have greater local control over their lives and communities, the lack of which is often more dramatic for aboriginal peoples than for society generally. The kind of society Bahá'ís see emerging from contemporary social upheaval is one in which local government will have a far greater role than it does today. That all members should have a say in how they are governed is a principle that today surely very few would deny, and the most effective level at which such widespread participation can be realized is local, not national. A sense of local community, local control, and local development is absolutely vital, and the level of government closest to day-to-day life must have at its disposal an adequate share of the material resources that the earth provides.

The extent to which Bahá'ís value the importance of local levels of governance is seen in the historical development of the administration of the Bahá'í community. Rather than establishing international and national administrative levels at the outset of its growth as a global community under the leadership of the head of the Bahá'í Faith at the time, Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'ís adopted as early as the 1920s the strategy of first concentrating on the development of strong local executive bodies, adding national administrative agencies when enough local institutions were established. In 1963 these agencies were strong enough to support the first election of an international executive, in a democratic process that embraced all adult Bahá'ís throughout the world.


While the right to self-determination of all peoples is most effectively carried forward at the local level, such local development--and the enhancement of the autonomy enjoyed by distinctive, diverse cultures implied by that development--requires a more global context if parochial and narrow hegemonies are to be avoided. International and worldwide institutions of governance, both legislative and executive, must be established to insure harmonious and cooperative relationships among all the nations and all the distinct cultures and peoples of the world.


Laws and constitutions can be developed based on universal spiritual principles to which all peoples can assent. Thus, a global framework can be established while the actual form and processes by which local governments operate remain a challenge of interpretation and application of universal principles, of concrete decisions based on conditions and cul- tural predilections particular to distinct localities and peoples.


The actual process of making local, community decisions and of organizing and developing a community is one of the most important aspects of self-government. To promote widespread participation and to overcome factionalism and divisiveness, the Bahá'í community uses a process called "consultation." Applied in the Bahá'í community over many decades and in many cultures and settings, the consultative process guides the manner in which community-wide discussion is pursued and the way in which decision-making bodies resolve disputes and plan strategies of community development.


This principle is central to the functioning of the Bahá'í community. Bahá'u'lláh declared that, together, consultation and compassion form the "law" of the age of humanity's maturity. Among the principles that guide Bahá'í consultation are the following:

  • The prohibition of factionalism or partisanship;

  • The provision of opportunities for all to participate in the consultative process that leads to decision-making;

  • The encouragement of all to speak freely according to their own consciences;

  • The responsibility for all participating to exercise courtesy and moderation in the expression of their views;

  • The moral obligation to be detached from one's own contribution so that the group or collective itself can come to own that contribution;

  • The primacy of the interests of the group or community over individual interests, even though individual freedom of expression is absolutely safeguarded;

  • A clear distinction between this broad form of consultation and the deliberations of a democratically elected body or governing council that takes the responsibility for decisions;

  • The requirement that, once a decision is taken, both the majority favoring it and those originally opposed respect, support, and carry out the decision in unity. Such unanimous and community-wide support ensures decisions are not subverted and sabotaged. Only through such support can a decision be properly evaluated and changed if genuine deficiencies in the decision itself are detected;

  • The obligation of all decision-making bodies to evaluate continually their work and pursue ongoing consultation with the wider community to assess and, if necessary, revise their decisions; and

  • The value of unity. Other essential values--such as freedom of expression, honesty and courage in stating one's own views, moderation of expression, courtesy and listening to different views--are critical to community development and progress, but unity is the most important value of all.

  • Most of the world's current political institutions were conceived for the needs of an earlier and very different age. Little wonder that throughout the world we see movements and attempts to incorporate a less adversarial and more consultative mode of governing. Whether these be supplementary systems of ad hoc arrangements, parliamentary committees, commissions and citizen consultations, they all bear witness to the desire to overhaul in dramatic ways the relationship between govern- ments and peoples and the manner in which civic life and political deliberation proceeds. Bahá'ís are convinced that governance and the administration of human affairs should be carried on through the principle of consultation in which all peoples have a say in how decisions affect them.

Economic Development


Economic questions, as much as social and political questions, have a direct relationship to spiritual conditions and values existing in the local community and in the wider society. It is especially important to consider the matter of economic development in the light of principles that are essential to the well-being and advancement of a people.

The effects of material deprivation are most acutely felt at the local level, and Bahá'u'lláh's admonition to eliminate existing extremes of wealth and poverty is most readily appreciated there. The social devastation to which current extremes contribute is painfully visible throughout the world, within both the poorer and the wealthier countries. Tragically, many aboriginal communities are among those that most vividly illustrate the consequences of the lack of justice and moderation inherent in existing economic practices and patterns.


Economic development challenges entrepreneurs, workers, farmers, local government councils, and labor representatives to learn new ways to cooperate, using the opportunities and resources particular to each local community and region, without overlooking existing aboriginal interests and traditional land-based skills. Paths of economic development are diverse, depending on the nature of resources and opportunities available to each locality and region. The resources of consultation outlined above, complemented by the renewal of those centuries-old virtues of honesty, trustworthiness, courage, and a spirit of service to the community, must combine to create locally tested economic ventures. At the same time it must be emphasized that, just as with the development of local governance, economic self-determination requires a global economic framework that allows for local communities' survival and economic productivity. An international economy requires universally acceptable laws and a system in which both communities and individuals are protected from being sacrificed to popular concepts of increasing material efficiency and consumption without limit or moderation.


Furthermore, as self-determination within a global and national framework is an important feature of community development, so too must the individual right to gainful employment be accepted as universal. Viewing unemployment as an unavoidable feature of an economic system amounts to an unacceptable admission of human impotency. Employment is a God-given right and responsibility. In Bahá'u'lláh's words:

"It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation....We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God...."

Bahá'u'lláh also identifies economic security as a God-given responsibility of any society:

"Know ye that the poor are the trust of God in your midst.... Ye will most certainly be called upon to answer for His trust...."

Our governing institutions, acting on our behalf, must redirect social and economic resources in order to ensure that no peoples are deprived of either employment opportunities or basic living needs.


Finally, since international forces play such a considerable and increasing role in the economy, it is surely time to be far bolder and more creative in the development of new arrangements of governance at the international level. The international economy, environmental resources, and land-base on which all economic activity ultimately depends call for much stronger institutions of international governance with levels of sovereignty appropriate to a new global society and economy. The voices of all peoples must be allowed some reasonable say in the direction such agencies might take the world economy. The aboriginal peoples, as distinctive cultures, might well take the lead in identifying more publicly and on the international stage those principles or objectives appropriate to a new economy based on sustainable development. Such work needs to complement efforts at self-government and economic development if the latter are to have any chance of success.

The Need for Healing


Aboriginal leaders and spokespersons repeat frequently the crucial importance of addressing the healing of families and communities with resources dedicated to this stage in the overall process of aboriginal development. Without such healing other developmental processes of governance, economic development, and education will not succeed. Current social ills rob aboriginal communities of the opportunities their youth should have in order to grow and provide leadership, and dedication to a process of healing is essential.

Among the several important issues that bear on the matter of healing, our own experiences and convictions prompt us to highlight the equality of women and men and the central place of the family as two of the most pressing areas of concern. The importance of legal and political evolution to redress inadequacies and injustice of past laws is also essential.

The Equality of Women and Men



Whatever new arrangements and new directions are taken in the world, the principle of the equality of women and men requires explicit recognition. The moral authority of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings on this point makes it clear that God makes no distinction between the worth of the soul of a woman or a man. Gender does not decide value in the spiritual world. As we come out of an era of history in which emphasis on physical strength or material considerations impeded women's full participation in society, the full emancipation of women remains a significant challenge. All peoples, whatever their culture or tradition, must give their unequivocal support for the principle of the equality of women and men.


As women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor, the moral and psychological climate will change throughout all societies, facilitating the generation of suitable social and political arrangements. All of us, men and women alike, share the responsibility to act with courage, fairness, and humility to make this principle a reality.

Not merely will society in a general way become healthier, but the economy and political life of society will improve once women gain their rightful place alongside men. Such issues as the provision of social, economic, and political measures to enhance the lives of children and the family, and measures for safer, less violent communities, will become more central on our various agendas. If we continue to neglect or marginalize the principle of full and absolute equality of women and men, mothers and children will continue to suffer disproportionately. There is a direct relationship between the predominance of men in positions of social, economic, and political leadership and the lack of support given mothers during those critical years when they give birth, nurse their children, and first educate the very young. This inattention of fathers and of a patriarchal society and lack of support for the best possible conditions for mothers, children, and the family, have contributed to social disintegration. So, too, the absence of women in leadership roles throughout all levels of society has prevented progress towards a more peaceful and productive economy and civil life. Indeed, the two conditions are directly linked.

The Family


A great deal more of society's financial resources and time on the local, national, and international agenda must be given to supporting the family, that fundamental building block of society in which children are born, nurtured, and raised.


The health of the family forms the basis of the health of a people, of a nation, and ultimately of the world itself, and to prosper it must have greater support from all social institutions. The family and society need education and laws that will support parenting instead of allowing competition for the resources of time and energy that should be devoted to it. The family unit has been a cherished and prized element in the community and social life of aboriginal peoples around the world, and the more dominant cultures might wisely look to the reverence and regard aboriginal peoples give to it.


The education and training of children occurs best through united and healthy families. Children's rights are most effectively protected if the family itself becomes much more central in the programs of all levels of governments and in whatever new institutions and arrangements are made over the coming years in aboriginal governance and national and international governance. The importance of this issue cannot be overstated.

Affirmative Action


"If any discrimination is at all to be tolerated, it should be a discrimination not against, but rather in favor of the minority, be it racial or otherwise."

This is a Bahá'í principle that the community's administrative practice tries to uphold. Justice demands such a principle, often translated as "affirmative action." Without it, social change will be too slow and the privileges of members of dominant and majority peoples will continue to eclipse the rights of those from minority or oppressed sectors of society.


Programs of affirmative action are temporary measures to balance the ills that contemporary society and a history of injustice have produced. If action is not taken, our economic and social well-being will be among the first elements of society to suffer and deteriorate, for tomorrow's economy, like that of the past, benefits most if all its members are healthy, well educated, and contributing to the wealth and productivity of all.

The Evolution of Law, Legislation, and Political Structures


Bahá'ís believe that the material world is a reflection of the spiritual world, and that laws and political structures must evolve commensurate with the ever-evolving needs of the human species. Genuine social transformation occurs through changes in the spiritual conditions of society. However, this also implies that social reality is in constant evolution. Thus, the rapid evolution in our laws and administrative structures is as necessary as the creation of new spiritual understandings and conditions.


It is apparent that the entire world, including the aboriginal peoples in many lands, is now at a new stage of maturity requiring new forms of government and social and economic participation that are universal and inclusive. Bahá'ís view efforts to incorporate protection of fundamental and collective human rights into the legal and constitutional frameworks of different countries as major contributions to the progress of human civilization.


The legitimacy of collective rights--that the well-being of an entire community may at times require specific attention and legal safeguards--must receive wider discussion and exposure in public education programs. Whatever the merits of a liberal philosophy, it has consistently overlooked the organic nature of human society and the necessity, even for the ultimate well-being of the individual, to protect the rights and unity of the entire community.


We believe, as Bahá'ís, that with sufficient consultation, collective and individual rights are not contradictory but complementary. That they remain apart only means that people have not talked together long enough or with enough humility, moderation, courtesy, and courage. Society as a whole and collective segments within it need protection as much as individuals do. From the Bahá'í perspective, the unity of society is the best measure of justice and the surest indicator of how effectively rights are enacted in legislation. In this context, it seems particularly critical to realize that the identification of universal principles on which laws can be constructed will promote a unity of law that allows for a diversity of interpretation and application of policies and decisions at the local level.


Furthermore, the process of developing legislation is itself an important community-building process and one in which the legitimate representatives of peoples, nations, and countries must engage with unceasing energy and commitment. Such detailed work requires the best that government and legal experts can manage. All segments of society must then be educated to support the rule of law and encourage the government at each level. Without such respect for law and support for our leaders, even the wisest law, the most effective administrative practice, and the most inspired leadership cannot bring well-being to a society. The world talks much about having leaders listen to the people, but there is a great deal to learn about encouraging and supporting leaders in their difficult work.

Education


As important as legislation and government are, the most important way in which the relationships among aboriginal peoples and the rest of society can be transformed is through education. Since education is the means through which identity and self-esteem can be secured and protected and by which healing and justice can be promoted, it is incumbent on society to concentrate its resources and attention on this issue which, in very broad terms, includes processes and populations outside as well as inside current education systems.


Greater investment in education is needed, both in aboriginal communities and in the schools attended by children and young people from all other segments of society, with the principle of unity in diversity serving as a core concept in school curricula and educational programs, whether those programs focus on race unity, morality and religion, history, or literature. In this way, unity in diversity will become central in the consciousness of young people.


It is noteworthy that the Bahá'í community of Iran, now numbering some 350,000, endured more than a century of persecution and human rights abuses while reaching literacy levels of 90 percent in three generations (compared to 40 percent for the rest of Iranian society). That community produced many of Iran's most educated leaders in technical, social, and professional fields, an achievement due to the underlying emphasis on unity. This reliance on universal principles also allowed the Iranian Bahá'í community to achieve the success it did before it was once again set upon in 1979 by those segments of Iranian society intent on returning the country to an age of ignorance and darkness. Throughout the world, more than a thousand Bahá'í social and economic development projects demonstrate again and again the practicality and power of unity as a preeminently important social value.


Much reflection and consultation focusing on unity as a core theme and on spiritual and moral values as principal elements in educational programs is required to generate specific recommendations. However, it may be worthwhile to consider an example of how the principle of unity can generate new ideas. Education in human suffering and sacrifice is not limited to any one culture on this planet. A fuller relationship between members of different cultures and communities that have survived tragedy on a wide scale can help them understand and transcend their own particular histories. Indeed, as all the cultures of the world become unified the shared burden of history's many tragedies and injustices may well fall into a pattern of mutual understanding and finally allow for the kind of redemption that permits genuine healing.


Whatever creative programs are devised, they would do well to pay heed to the principle of oneness and unity in which all cultures are respected and none are considered superior. We should set aside a mindset that seems determined to combat every existing evil of society instead of building curricula and programs with an emphasis on positive goals. For instance, let there be programs on race unity instead of anti-racism, on personal and social development instead of drug abuse prevention, on universal spiritual and religious teachings instead of expelling religious education from the schools because of a few extremist or fundamentalist elements. Too often the current approach isolates social problems and then turns to the school to redress them, one by one, instead of conceiving of school programs with a focus on themes of unity and integration, inclusion, health, and development. We must create curricula in which subject matter is not cut up and parcelled out but built on an educational approach that seeks out relationships between people, subject areas, and different sectors of life; that seeks unity in diversity; and that instills a value of service to the broader good of society as the point around which young people develop their identities.

Whatever educational programs are conceived, it must be explicitly acknowledged in any proposed solutions that knowledge is essential in order to motivate the necessary development of will and resolve required for action. If longstanding social patterns are to change, people's knowledge needs to be increased, for only through understanding is human will and energy set in motion. If they do nothing to increase knowledge, laws and new structures of government will accomplish little.

Conclusion


A great deal of work must be done to right wrongs, to create justice, and to educate a new generation. Bahá'ís know that instant solutions are not possible. The Bahá'í community is itself still small, albeit rapidly growing. But it is committed to working towards the creation of justice and unity, healing and well-being. Bahá'ís firmly believe that, in the course of time and in conditions of prosperity and well-being, the aboriginal peoples of our planet will make even greater contributions to the happiness, the progress, and the spiritual illumination of the entire human family than they have already made through their suffering and sacrifice. That belief in the capacity and character of the aboriginal peoples lies enshrined in the sacred writings of the Bahá'í Faith. `Abdu'l-Bahá, eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, called attention to the importance of the aboriginal peoples when He wrote to the Americas from Palestine during World War I:

You must attach great importance to the Indians, the original inhabitants of America. For these souls may be likened unto the ancient inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula....When the Muhammadan Light shone forth in their midst, they became so enkindled that they shed illumination upon the world. Likewise, should these Indians be educated and properly guided, there can be no doubt that through the Divine teachings they will become so enlightened that the whole earth will be illumined.

Published in The Baha'i World


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