The people of the world face personal and collective danger from the spread of terrorism. The acts of violence carried out by lone individuals or small, unrepresentative groups of people bring tragedy into other people's lives.
A number of causes for terrorism can be identified. In some ways, selfish, uncaring behaviour on the parts of groups of people mirror the adolescent stage of individuals, where personal concerns or grievances become out of proportion. In the Bahá'í view, humanity is nearing the stage of maturity, but has yet to understand the direction in which it will develop:
"The human race.... has passed through evolutionary stages.... of infancy and childhood,.... and is now in.... its turbulent adolescence approaching its long-awaited coming of age."
Part of the background to current waves of terrorism is the lack of a proper balance between the liberty of the individual and the needs of society as a whole. The rights of an individual to act as he/she wishes can never be absolute. On this subject, Bahá'u'lláh, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote:
"We find some men desiring liberty, and priding themselves therein. Such men are in the depths of ignorance. Liberty must, in the end, lead to sedition, whose flames none can quench.... That which beseemeth man is submission unto such restraints as will protect him from his own ignorance, and guard him against the harm of the mischief-maker. Liberty causeth man to overstep the bounds of propriety, and to infringe on the dignity of his station. It debaseth him to the level of extreme depravity and wickedness."
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 emphasised 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."
He spoke out against all violence, saying:
"There is no glory for him that committeth disorder in the earth after it hath been made so good."
"Spread not disorder in the land, and shed not the blood of any one, and consume not the substance of others wrongfully."
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. According to the Bahá'í Writings, when the light of religion is dimmed, the
"perversion of human nature, the degradation of human conduct,.... reveal 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...."
Although the fundamental Bahá'í view is that the ideal of world citizenship and the concept of the oneness of mankind should replace the narrower and more violent goals of the terrorist, there are also practical measures to be found in the Bahá'í social teachings.
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:
"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."
A Positive Goal
"The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."
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. The Bahá'í view is that the oneness of mankind should become a conscious goal of political, educational and religious life. Aggressive forms of behaviour must give way to more gentle ideals:
"Consort with all men, O people of Bahá, in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship."
"Beware lest ye offend the feelings of anyone, or sadden the heart of any person...."
The Bahá'í emphasis is on bringing about world unity. Every nation, race and tribe should have its rightful place in the family of mankind, 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."
Obedience to Government
Bahá'ís are forbidden by Bahá'u'lláh from carrying arms unless it is essential. They are also enjoined to obey a just government. It is justice, indeed, that Bahá'ís believe should be the goal of every law. Then every individual should willingly accept the law, and help to build a world where violence is forgotten:
"The law must reign and not the individual; thus will the world become a place of beauty and true brotherhood will be realised."
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