International Seminar in Danang City - The Baha'i Community of Viet Nam

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International Seminar in Danang City 30-31 March 2015

Hosted by the Government Committee for Religious Affairs and IGE - USA

 

 

Dear respectfull Guests,

 

On behalf of the Baha'i Community of Vietnam we would like to express our admiration to the initiative of the organizers of this event, and welcome to the honoured audiences.

 

The Baha'i Community of Vietnam welcome the opportunity to offer its contribution to the seminar. We are pleased that the Organizizers has choosen to focus on the theme “Work of education for youth and adolescents of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is”, a crucial field that we offer the priority education for young people between the age 10-19.  This is a critical period of personal change during which young people begin to consciously explore and apply their knowledge, values and beliefs about individual and collective life. During this time, they take on new responsibilities – providing care at home, contributing to the family income, and becoming protagonists of change in their communities and nations.

 

As we have seen, the current education in society has exposed the moral defect to an alarming level. They are only equipped with knowledge of the natural sciences passively without caring about the development of morals, characters of men , to deserve the position of noble-mindedness that God bestowed on men. To help them in having a noble soul, religion is the most important agent to contribute to society in this area.

 

Bahá'u'lláh, The Founder of the Baha'i Faith taught that the Prophet, or "Manifestation of God," is the Light-bringer of the spiritual world, as the sun is the light-bringer of the natural world. Just as the material sun shines over the earth and causes the growth and development of material organisms, so also, through the Divine Manifestation, the Sun of Truth shines upon the world of heart and soul, and educates the thoughts, morals and characters of men.[1]

 

 

We are living at a very special time in the history of humankind - the era when humanity enter adulthood. In this Dispensation, Bahá'u'lláh has raised the work to the rank of worship of the one true God. He taught that: “Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship.”[2]

 

Abdul-Baha  said that “Service to humanity is service to God.”[3]

 

He also said: “It is appropriate and befitting that in this illumined age -- the age of the progress of the world of humanity -- we should be self-sacrificing and should serve the human race. Therefore, ye must also be thinking of everyone, so that mankind may be educated, character moderated and this world may turn into a Garden of Eden.

Love ye all religions and all races with a love that is true and sincere and show that love through deeds and not through the tongue; for the latter hath no importance, as the majority of men are, in speech, well-wishers, while action is the best.”[4]

 

Basing on such Divine Teachings we offer society a programme of education, namely education in service of community, which, in our experience, is central to the transformation of the individual and community life. It is well known that the forces that influence the intellectual and emotional development of a child are not confined to the classroom. The forces acting on youth through the media, technology, family, peers, the wider community and other social institutions convey messages that may be reinforcing in some respects and contradictory in others, which contributes to confusion for many youth – about identity, moral purpose and social reality.

 

The current education in society focuses too much on the exclusive aim of helping young people to secure gainful employment. Thus they become selfish, insensitive, lack of sharing and even treat friends and others evil providing that the benefits gained for himself or herself.

 

About this selfishness Abdul-Baha said: “Every imperfect soul is self-centred and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his family. If his ideas still more widen, his concern will be the felicity of his fellow citizens; and if still they widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. This is indicative of perfection.”[5]

 

Educational processes should assist youth to recognize and express their potentialities while developing in them the capacity to contribute to the spiritual and material prosperity of their communities. Indeed, one cannot fully develop one’s talents and capabilities in isolation from others.

 

The concept of a two-fold moral purpose—to develop one’s inherent potentialities and to contribute to the transformation of society—provides an important axis of the educational process. As one examines the influences shaping the minds of youth and adolescents, it becomes readily apparent that many forces breed passivity and a desire to be entertained. Such forces contribute to the formation of entire generations willing to be led by those who skillfully appeal to superficial emotions. Many educational programs perceive young people as mere receptacles of information.

 

To challenge these trends, the worldwide Bahá'í community has endeavored to develop a culture which promotes an independent way of thinking, studying and acting, in which the students see themselves as united by a desire to work towards the common good, supporting one another and advancing together, respectful of the knowledge that each one possesses.

 

The Great Being saith: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”[6]

 

Thus, education is not cramming subjective knowledge of adult to a child in a passive way, but is finding to exploit the inestimable potential latent in every child.

 

The responsibility to generate new knowledge and apply it in socially beneficial ways rests on the shoulders of every young person. In the same way, the creation of an environment conducive to this process is a duty of every government. Without access to knowledge, the meaningful participation of youth in the affairs of their communities is not possible. The primary focus of educational processes, then, must be to build the capacity within young people to participate fully as protagonists of social progress.

 

In order for youth to play their important role, the inequities of girls’ access to quality education must be addressed. The education of girls has a ‘multiplier effect’—it results in reduced chances of early marriage, greater likelihood of girls’ informed and active role in family planning, reduced infant and maternal mortality, enhanced participation of girls in social, economic and political decision-making, and the promotion of economic prosperity. The need to extend educational opportunities to girls rests on the understanding that the equality of men and women, boys and girls is a fundamental truth about human reality and not just a desirable condition to be achieved for the good of society. Their full participation in the arenas of law, politics, science and technology, commerce, and religion, to name but a few, are needed to forge a social order enlightened by the contributions and wisdom of fully half of the world’s population. As women are one of the most powerful influences on the health and well-being of their children, deficiencies in the mother’s education, will, in most cases, multiply throughout succeeding generations. Governments, then, must follow through on their commitments to prohibit the unjust practices of infanticide, prenatal sex selection, female genital mutilation, trafficking of girl children and use of girls in prostitution and pornography, and to enforce laws to ensure that marriage is entered into only with the free and full consent of both spouses. The overarching objective must be to address the root causes of gender bias so that all people can play their rightful role in the transformation of society.

 

The investments that governments make in the education and health of their youth and adolescents represent no less than an investment in the stability, security and prosperity of the nation itself. Educational approaches and methods, guided by the needs and aspirations of respective communities, supported by families and social institutions, and inspired by the awareness of inestimable potential latent in every child, will awaken youth and adolescents not only to their own intellectual capabilities but also to their role as protagonists of change in their communities and in the world.

 

Baha'u'llah said: “The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable  and seemly conduct.”[7]

 

Youth have played a vital role in Baha'i history. The Bab Himself declared His mission when He was but 25 years old and so many among the band of His followers were in the prime of their youth when they embraced His Revelation. During the ministry of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, young people were at the forefront of efforts to proclaim the message of the new faith and to share its teaching with others. Following in the path that these and other extraordinary figures had opened, thousands of young Baha'is have arisen in each generation to respond to the call of Baha'u'llah. Their efforts are guided by the Head of the Baha'i faith - today, The Universal House of Justice - which encourages young Baha'is to draw on the zeal and enthusiasm characteristic of the period of youth and so make decisive contributions to the advancement of spiritual and material civilization.

 

In its message dated July 1st, 2013 addressed to 114 International Youth Conferences, The Universal House of Justice writes:

 

"Although your realities are shaped by a broad diversity of circumstances, yet a desire to bring about constructive change and a capacity for meaningful service, both characteristic of your stage of life are neither limited to any race or nationality, nor dependent upon material means. This bright period of youth you share is experienced by all - but it is brief, and buffeted by numerous social forces. How important it is, then, to strive to be among those who, in the words of Abdu'l-Baha, 'plucked the fruit of life' ".

 

In contributing towards this worldwide development, the Baha'i community of Vietnam learns how to engage youth, irrespective of religious, racial, social...backgrounds, in an educational process shaping the patterns of community life, at the heart of which lies a process of building capacity in people for service to humanity set in motion by core activities.

 

In this connection, The Guardian of the Faith – Shoghi Effendi exhorts youth to learn through "active, wholehearted, and continued participation" in the activities of their communities. He explains that community life provides "an indispensable laboratory," where young people can "translate into living and constructive action the principles" they glean from study of the Faith. The Universal House further makes clear "there, in the field of service, knowledge is tested, questions arise out of practice, and new levels of understanding are achieved". This process carried out in a learning mode involves a scientific cycle of study of the Writings of the Faith, consultation, planning, action, reflection on experience. Thus, a formal educational process established by the Ruhi institute through a sequence of courses with practical elements is needed to help young people equip themselves for service, one that is embedded in the reality of community life. Activity for the sake of activity, study for the sake of study, does not meet the requirement. Growing numbers of people everywhere are engaged in a systematic educational process to increase their capacity for service, and youth have consistently remained in the forefront.

 

In regards to the function of the training institute, one letter written on behalf of the House of Justice explains:

"It strives to engage the individual in an educational process in which virtuous conduct and self-discipline are developed in the context of service, fostering a coherent and joyful pattern of life that weaves together study, worship, teaching, community building and, in general, involvement in other processes that seek to transform society. At the heart of the educational process is contact with the Word of God, whose power sustains every individual's attempts to purify his or her heart and to walk a path of service with 'the feet of detachment'."

 

Another letter written on behalf of the House of Justice states:

 

"... the courses of the institute are intended to set the individual on a path in which qualities and attitudes, skills and abilities, are gradually acquired through service - service intended to quell the insistent self, help to lift the individual out of its confines, and placing him or her in a dynamic process of community building."

 

And, referring to the contingents of young people around the world, the House of Justice writes:

 

"Irrespective of particulars, they will, one and all, share in the desire to dedicate their time and energy, talents and abilities, to service to their communities. Many, when given the opportunity, will gladly devote a few years of their lives to the provision of spiritual education to the rising generations. In the young people of the world, then, lies a reservoir of capacity to transform society waiting to be tapped. And the release of this capacity should be regarded by every institute as a sacred charge."

 

In this connection, Baha'i youth and their friends in many communities are committing themselves to serving as animators of the junior youth spiritual empowerment program. The program gives young people" tools needed to combat the forces that rob them of their true identity as noble beings and to work for the common good". In a joyous and friendly group of peers that serve as an environment of mutual support, junior youth study texts that introduce various fundamental concepts. They are aided to sharpen their spiritual perception, to identify forces shaping society, and to enhance their powers of expression, which, in turn, enable them to understand and describe with clarity the world around them through acts of service, they learn together to tangibly contribute to the well-being of society.

Reinforcing the moral structures that are developing in their mind, the ideas addressed in each text give junior youth a hopeful outlook on life and society. Animators, acting as their friends, support and guide them in this process, careful to relate to them not as children but as young people with growing abilities to contribute to raising a new civilization. While fostering conditions that inspire selfless service to the community, animators are also watchful lest, without realizing it, these activities they facilitate invoke in their charges ego or self-centeredness. Their interactions with parents of junior youth nurture a collaborative spirit and help extend the positive environment created in the group to the homes and to the entire community.

 

The effect of the program on the animators is equally significant. Whether they have been members of junior youth or not, they are all affected by the program's power to shape moral purpose. To the extent that they commit to their own spiritual growth will effectiveness of their service to the younger generation increase. Mindful of the concept inherited from society that affects their mind, animators are ever conscious of the effect of Baha'u'llah's teachings on their thoughts and actions. They also strive to create an atmosphere among themselves and in their communities where the greatest joy is derived from aiding "one another scale the heights of service".

 

In walking the path of service, everyone would consider themselves cultivating a twofold moral purpose - the fulfillment of individual potential and contribution to the advancement of society  both united by service. The following words written on behalf of the Guardian Shoghi Effendi referring to a twofold moral purpose may be employed to end this paper:

 

"We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life molds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions."

 

Thank you,

 


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[1]
Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, p. 4

 

[2] Abdu’l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy”, p. 83) [153

 

[3] Abdul-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8-

 

[4] Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 69

 

[5] Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 69

 

[6] Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 259-

 

[7] Baha’u’llah, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 25-