Bahai News - Respecting Diversity, Building Unity, Securing Peace
Sunday, December 24, 2000
Respecting Diversity, Building Unity, Securing Peace
By DWIGHT W. ALLEN
Today we live on the dark side of peace, having experienced only the images
of the endless suffering of war, so it is hard for us to see the relief to
be gained from ending all war. We are aware that war is the source of
suffering, and peace could surely relieve that suffering. The inevitable
result of this thinking brings a minimal definition of peace as the
absence of war. But, is it?
* * *With the powerful ability to create unified
action, what, then, are the pillars of this glorious peace that need to
be built? First, we must find the will to recreate our public schools.
All children must come to see themselves as productive, successful
members of a world community. Teaching must be redefined to make it the
most respected of the professions. Schools and school schedules must be
redefined to serve families with two working parents and the children of
marginal families where effective parenting is not possible. The
curriculum must be redefined for relevance and consistency, to help kids
become good as well as smart. And we must balance the need for national
coordination with the need for local initiative. Trial and error will
be essential to this process, worldwide.
War has always been the ultimate expression of the breakdown of human
relations and the violation of human rights. We are beginning to realize
that no one wins a war, and we are beginning to realize that human rights
go beyond putting up with each other. Struggles to achieve equality in
civil rights go far beyond a blindness to differences. At present, we are
learning to appreciate our differences by discovering that diversity is
the source of strength and beauty.
But even the appreciation of differences is only a way station to the
ultimate expression of human rights, which is to achieve a world society
in which there isn't a hint of estrangement among us--in essence, the
unification of humanity. It will require new levels of appreciation, and
it will be a struggle as painstaking as our struggle to end war.
First, we must find the will to embark on this important yet uncertain
journey. Unity must be the true objective of peace. It will require trial
and error, and an appreciation of mistakes. With unity, everything is
possible. If the peace we are building heralds a new era of unity
including the fullest expression of respect for human rights, it will
become a glorious peace.
What does this idea of unity mean? To begin with, it means striving
for a unity of thought that will lead to unity of action.
It means accepting the importance of consultation, where we will no
longer agree to disagree. Rather we will agree to find our points of
agreement based on what is right for the human family and then
confidently move forward to achieve it.
Another pillar of peace is more responsible attention to the
environment by effectively using and also conserving our natural
resources. This will require greater international cooperation and
creative solutions to the problems of urbanization, transportation and
food production and distribution.
Overcoming racial, national, religious, gender and ethnic prejudices
is essential to the ultimate peace and prosperity of humankind. Overcoming
centuries of hate and division will require development of new incentives
for cooperation and reduced tolerance for bigotry through education and
As these pillars of peace continue to be redefined, information will play
an ever more central role. As access to information becomes universal,
sorting, analyzing and responding to myriad confusing pieces of information
will require new levels of skill and insight. Just as in the management of
our environment, new issues of responsibility will emerge for access,
management and distribution of information worldwide.
Ultimately peace rests on our collective values and an awareness of
the purpose of life. Spiritual values are a potent reality in the fabric
of human society and in the lives of the vast majority of the world's
inhabitants. We must realize and reaffirm traditional values of trust,
integrity and family unity. Respecting diversity while building chords of
unity will secure the peace.
The prospect of world peace will require new ways of thinking and
acting, within our families, our communities, our nations and in our
interdependent global community. Traditional values will underlie new
unifying approaches of consultation, cooperation and coordination. It
will be uncharted territory. Effective education and communication will
emerge as central pillars of this glorious peace we cannot as yet, but
will, define. The first step now is to generate a "world alert" to the
issues of peace that can galvanize a process that will last decades, even
centuries, as we work together to create an ever-advancing civilization.
- - -
Dwight W. Allen Was Keynote Speaker for the
Recent 10th Annual Baha'i Human Rights Awards Banquet in Oxnard. he Is
Professor of Education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and
Co-author, With Entertainer Bill Cosby, of "American Schools: the 100
Billion Dollar Challenge."
©Copyright 2000, Los Angeles Times
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