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?
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.

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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.
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 public policy.
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.
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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."


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