Baha'i take on developmental disabilities?

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Ian Mayes
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Baha'i take on developmental disabilities?

Postby Ian Mayes » Sat Feb 28, 2009 1:30 pm

Hey all,

Greetings!

I was wondering - is there any Baha'i approach to people who have developmental disabilities?

I ask, because I am a full-time volunteer at residential education center dedicated to serving people who have developmental disabilities. The place is part of the worldwide Camphill movement (more information on that can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camphill ) which is based on the work of Anthroposophy created by Rudolph Steiner. The founder of the Camphill movement, a man named Karl König, had a lot of thoughts about people with developmental disabilities, and how to best serve them with an eye towards their psychological, social, and spiritual well-being.

Living and working where I do, I am constantly surrounded by particular ideas coming from a particular spiritual approach about serving people. I wonder - what do Baha'is have to say on the matter? If the Baha'is were to set up such a center, what would that look like?

Thank you, and I am wishing you all the best!

- Ian

brettz9
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Re: Baha'i take on developmental disabilities?

Postby brettz9 » Sun Mar 01, 2009 12:07 am

Hello Ian,

Regarding this line in the Wikipedia article:

It was König's view that every human being possessed a healthy inner personality that was independent of their physical characteristics, including characteristics marking developmental or mental disability, and the role of the school was to recognize, nurture and educate to this essential self.


this statement of Baha'u'llah came to mind:

Know thou that the soul of man is exalted above, and is independent of all infirmities of body or mind. That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments. Consider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness.


As far as the statement, "the communities' aim is to support every member to be able to contribute to the community in some fashion", the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, stated, in a letter on his behalf:

It is the duty of those who are in charge of the organization of society to give every individual the opportunity of acquiring the necessary talent in some kind of profession, and also the means of utilizing such a talent, both for its own sake and for the sake of earning the means of his livelihood. Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession, for work, especially when performed in the spirit of service, is according to Bahá'u'lláh a form of worship. It has not only a utilitarian purpose, but has a value in itself, because it draws us nearer to God, and enables us to better grasp His purpose for us in this world. It is obvious, therefore, that the inheritance of wealth cannot make anyone immune from daily work.

(Cited in Kitab-i-Aqdas, note 56)


Of course the statement on the article on Anthroposophy at Wikipedia, "For Steiner, it was the human capacity for rational thought which would allow individuals to comprehend spiritual research on their own and to bypass the danger of dependency on an authority.", this is fully compatible with our views on independent investigation of truth (and our lack of clergy). Also the apparent concept that religious truth and mystical reality is accessible to all, is something our Writings fully embrace.

As far as this statement, "Its residents live together in family homes, and the industry of the villages are typically centered around biodynamic farming[2], craftswork or the household;", the Baha'i Writings also praised crafts (even stating all should learn a craft: see http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file= ... rts_crafts ), farming, and household work, and our Writings also indicate that the Baha'i Houses of Worship should include dependencies for "incurables", the "orphan", and other social and humanitarian institutions.

There are quite a few Writings on Baha'i education, an excellent compilation (which unfortunately is not, to my knowledge, online): http://www.bahaibookstore.com/productde ... fm?PC=4872 . There is one we do have online here: http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file= ... _education

However, while there are general principles (moral and religious education would be a distinct foundational component), we are also encouraged to avail ourselves of science (awareness of child psychology was specifically recommended for teachers, for example, as I recall) in making Baha'i programs of service, which are only to expand into the future. But, our numbers are still fairly small to be able to have such a great impact with our material services, so, while we and our larger communities may do social and economic work, we are more at a stage of needing to teach and enroll greater numbers of Baha'is...

best wishes,
Brett

TheCatLady
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Re: Baha'i take on developmental disabilities?

Postby TheCatLady » Mon Mar 02, 2009 7:51 am

This is a bit off topic, kind of, as I am not responding to the oringinal poster's post, but instead the one afterwards. I actually have a question about the quote you provided out of the Kitab-i-aqdas

"Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession, for work, especially when performed in the spirit of service, is according to Bahá'u'lláh a form of worship."

(Please keep in mind I am not a Baha'i right now, so I have a lot of questions and don't know anything!!)
I'm confused on it, because no matter how bad they are handicapped, they are still obligated to work- and I mean... there are some people who simply can't do anything at all, like feed themselves, so how can they work? I don't mean it to sound like I'm arguing with what what is said, but more trying to understand that. Anyone care to ellaborate a bit for me?

brettz9
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Re: Baha'i take on developmental disabilities?

Postby brettz9 » Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:55 am

Hello Catlady,

I'll try to get to your other post when I have some more time, but really quickly, for this thread...

Good question...

Firstly, I should point out that besides having homes for the "incapacitated" (which I believe here is not limited to those literally unconscious!), a monthly subsistence income is to be offered (as many governments currently do). No one who is significantly disabled will be expected to earn their living on their own paid labor (at least entirely, if at all).

...if a person is disabled, striken by dire poverty or becomes helpless, then it is incumbent upon the rich or the trustees to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence. When the House of Justice comes into being it will set up homes for the incapacitated. Thus no one will be obliged to beg, even as the supplementary part of the blessed verse denotes: "It is enjoined upon everyone to earn his livelihood"; then He says: "As to those who are disabled, it devolveth upon the trustees and the rich to make adequate provision for them." By "trustees" is meant the representatives of the people, that is to say the members of the House of Justice.

('Abdu'l-Baha, in Lights of Guidance, no. 409)


However, as the quotation you cited pointed out, "It has not only a utilitarian purpose, but has a value in itself, because it draws us nearer to God, and enables us to better grasp His purpose for us in this world." As psychology also confirms, being engaged in meaningful work is a real boost to a person's sense of happiness and purpose in the world. I recall seeing a video of a young woman from India doing sewing with her teeth--since she had no arms or legs. Of course, that is not to say that someone in such a difficult position should be prodded into labor beyond their capacity, but having something meaningful to do, certainly helps uplift the spirit and gives purpose to peoples' lives.

And of course, such a statement would not include those who are so mentally far gone as to be unable to do any kind of work. Sometimes, due to the limitations of language, or to what Shoghi Effendi called, in a letter on his behalf, "exaggerated emphasis", we may find some passages which seem to leave no exceptions, but which really do in certain extreme cases.

One other item which might not have been clear as to the meaning of "work", this does not only refer to "going to work" outside the home:

In response to a question concerning whether Bahá'u'lláh's injunction requires a wife and mother, as well as her husband, to work for a livelihood, the Universal House of Justice has explained that Bahá'u'lláh's directive is for the friends to be engaged in an occupation which will profit themselves and others, and that homemaking is a highly honourable and responsible work of fundamental importance to society.

(in Kitab-i-Aqdas, note 56)


best wishes,
Brett

TheCatLady
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Re: Baha'i take on developmental disabilities?

Postby TheCatLady » Mon Mar 02, 2009 10:17 am

Thank you very much for clarifying, Brett! I hadn't even thought of home-making, so thank you for putting that in there! :)


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