Children, Oppression of
Dear Bahá'í Friend,
Your letter of 14 October 1985, in which you express great anguish at the plight of babies and children who suffer at the hands of exploitative and disturbed individuals, was received by the Universal House of Justice. We are instructed to convey this reply to you.
On this plane of existence, there are many injustices that the human mind cannot fathom. Among these are the hear-rending trials of the innocent. Indeed, even the Prophets of God Themselves have borne their share of grievous afflictions in every age. Yet in spite of the evidence of all this suffering, God's Manifestations, Whose lives and wisdom show Them to have been far above human beings in understanding, unitedly bear testimony to the justice, love and mercy of God.
With regard to the spiritual significance of the suffering of children "who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors", 'Abdu'l-Bahá not only states that for those souls "suffering is the greatest mercy of God", He also explains that to be a recipient of God's mercy is "far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world", and He promises that "for those souls there is a recompense in another world". Thus:
As to the subject of babes and infants and weak ones who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors: This contains great wisdom and this subject is of paramount importance. In brief, for those souls there is a recompense in another world and many details are connected with this matter. For those souls that suffering is the greatest mercy of God. Verily that mercy of the Lord is far better and Preferable to all the comfort of this world and the growth and development of this place of mortality.You enquire why some souls, notably those born to loving parents, are seemingly favoured by God, while those born to abusing and rejecting parents are destined to endure a lifetime of suffering, since children, growing up in such a destructive atmosphere are more likely as adults, to perpetrate abuse on their own children, thus repeating the cycle of violence and thereby further placing in jeopardy their relationship to God. Clearly, only God is able to know the true state of any soul. It is therefore important to appreciate that God in His bounty has endowed every created thing, however humble, "with the capacity to exercise a particular influence, and been made to possess a distinct virtue". And, reminiscent of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Bahá'u'lláh, in the "Gleanings", (p. 149) draws attention to the need to make efforts to develop and demonstrate in action out God-given potential:
...All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition. Your own acts testify to this truth.
Is it not an evidence of the justice of God that each of us, irrespective of family background, is assessed in terms of the efforts we have made to seize whatever opportunities existed in our lives, to develop and use our allotted talent, be it large or small? "Each shall receive his share from the Lord", is Baha'ullah's assurance.
Sufferings and trials, sent by God to test and perfect His creatures, are an integral part of life. They contain the potential for man's progress or retrogression, depending on the individual's response. As 'Abdu'l-Bahá explains:
...The souls who bear the tests of God become the manifestations of great bounties: for the divine trials cause some souls to become entirely lifeless, while they cause the holy souls to ascent to the highest degree of love and solidity.
In addition, we know from the Bahá'í Writings that man's soul "is independent of all infirmities of body or mind," and not only continues to exist "after departing from this mortal world", but progresses "through the bounty and grace of the Lord". Therefore, an evaluation of man's material existence and achievements cannot ignore the potential spiritual development stimulated by the individual's desire to manifest the attributes of God and his response to the exigencies of his life, nor can it exclude the possibility of the operation of God's mercy in terms of compensation for earthy suffering, in the next life.
As to your own torment and suffering arising from your perception of the fate of children and their oppressors, the way to peace and security for you and for humanity as a whole, is through service to the Cause, to which you have so earnestly committed yourself.
We are instructed to assure you that the Universal House of Justice with offer prayers at the Holy Shrines that your faith may be deepened and your perplexities resolved, and we share with you these solacing word of Bahá'u'lláh:
My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in heir joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.
With loving Bahá'í greetings,
For Department of the Secretariat