A. K. Merchant*
Once more India has witnessed the consequences of terrorist attacks more brutal and gruesome than the ones before and disruption of normal life that shall take a long time to heal and for some never. The question arises where is our civilization headed?
Things will always change. We have no choice about that, but how we react to change matters a lot. It really boils down to this...either we manage change, or it will manage us. How long are the acts of violence carried out by lone individuals or small groups identified as terrorist groups that wreak havoc bringing untold misery to continue?
A number of causes of terrorism can be identified. In some ways, selfish, uncaring behaviour on the part of groups of people mirror immature stage of individuals, where personal concerns or grievances become out of proportion. The rights of an individual to act as he/she wishes can never be absolute. In many cases, the cause which the terrorist espouses is driven by a sense of injustice, as when a nation does not have independence in the family of nations, or where a minority feels that its rights are ignored. The world must ensure that no situations of political injustice continue, thereby removing this kind of terrorist’s motivation, justification and support. Bahá’u’lláh emphasized the need for a universal conference at which the international frontiers will be fixed, and levels of national armaments reduced. Every minority would have its rights guaranteed. He expressed the desire that “…weapons of war throughout the world may be converted into instruments of reconstruction and that strife and conflict may be removed from the midst of men.”
Religion is also frequently used by the terrorist as an excuse for his actions, despite the fact that every religion forbids murder, and demands that individuals love others. The golden rule, found in each religion, is that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. The moral codes of true religion have lost their impact resulting in “the perversion of human nature, the degradation of human conduct,… revealing themselves, under such circumstances, in their worst and most revolting aspects. Human character is debased,… the voice of human conscience is stilled, the sense of decency and shame is obscured…”
The UNESCO document on education in the 21st century titled: Learning: The Treasure Within that identified the four pillars of education—Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Be, the fourth one is Learning to Live Together. The ideal of world citizenship and the concept of the oneness of humankind should replace the narrower and more violent goals of the terrorist, a few of the practical measures in the Bahá’í writings are enumerated here. A world police force should be established, and this should be accompanied by world-wide laws. Terrorists use different states around the world as refuges from justice, and a number of countries harbour, supply, finance, train and sponsor terrorist groups for their own ends. Until some sort of world law is established, terrorism can never be completely eliminated. There is no danger in a rational level of patriotism, but what needs to be developed is a love of humanity as a whole. With this ideal as a goal, replacing the fierce nationalism that is used to justify acts of terror, a sense of world citizenship can be developed. Loving all the peoples of the world should include a love of one’s own country. All the human sciences—anthropology, physiology and psychology—agree that there is only one human species, although we differ endlessly in lesser ways. Aggressive forms of behaviour must give way to more gentle ideals. In the Bahá’í view: “The human race … has passed through evolutionary stages… of infancy and childhood… and is now in… its turbulent adolescence approaching it long-awaited coming of age.”
Every nation, race and ethnic group should have its rightful place in the family of humankind, but this will not be achieved through killing: “Fighting, and the employment of force, even for the right cause, will not bring about good results. The oppressed who have right on their side must not take that right by force; the evil would continue. Hearts must be changed.” Otherwise the ominous fate of humankind as predicted in the Bahá’í writings seems inevitable: “Adversity, prolonged, world-wide, afflictive, allied to chaos and universal destruction, must needs convulse the nations, stir the conscience of the world, disillusion the masses, precipitate a radical change in the very conception of society, and coalesce ultimately the disjointed, the bleeding limbs of mankind into one body, single, organically united, and indivisible.”
*The author can be contacted at akmerchant@hotmail.com or akmerchant@rediffmail.com

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