Re: Various comments on Baha'i auxlang policy (long)

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Posted by Brett Zamir ( on February 14, 2002 at 16:22:36:

In Reply to: Re: Various comments on Baha'i auxlang policy (long) posted by mark on February 13, 2002 at 23:40:18:

I should also add the following quotations (culled from a compilation made at urging Baha'is to participate in univesal language activities:

"What Baha'u'llah is referring to in the Eighth Leaf of the Exalted Paradise is a far distant time, when the world is really one country, and one language would be a sensible possibility. It does not contradict His instruction as to the need immediately for an auxiliary language. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 16, 1946) (Lights of Guidance, Page 341 )
Note the above quotation says "need immediately for an auxiliary language."

During the International Year of Peace (1986), the Universal House of Justice mentioned the following:
In addition to projects to be initiated at the World Centre, these ideas include: Calling upon local and national Baha'i communities to sponsor a wide range of activities which will engage the attention of people from all walks of life to various topics relevant to peace, such as:...the adoption of a world auxiliary language...; Mounting a publicity campaign which will make use of such themes as ..."world peace through world language,"...--a campaign which could lead to discussion of these subjects in small or large gatherings, at local or national levels, and perhaps in collaboration with organizations promoting such ideas; Urging the publishing within and without the Baha'i community of a wide assortment of literature, posters and other graphic materials on peace; (A Wider Horizon, pp. 31-32)

Esslemont eloquently testified to the struggle for a universal language (which ironically and sadly it seems we Baha'is even may face from other Baha'is from time to time who buy into the American-centric view that English is necessarily a done-deal (try talking to the masses in other countries about this):

"When Stephenson invented his locomotive engine, European mathematicians of the time, instead of opening their eyes and studying the facts, continued for years to prove to their own satisfaction that an engine on smooth rails could never pull a load, as the wheels would simply slip round and round and the train make no progress. To examples like these one might add indefinitely, both from ancient and modern history, and even from our own times. Dr. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, had to battle for his wonderful international language against the same sort of ridicule, contempt, and stupid opposition which greeted Columbus, Galvani, and Stephenson. Even Esperanto, which was given to the world so recently as 1887, has had its martyrs." (Baha'u'llah and the New Era, Page 199)

I don't want to condemn English, because it could be a possibility for a world language, and in some ways it is now, as the Century of Light statement points out; any human language can express, albeit often circuitously, the sentiments of human thought. In fact, if English is supported, a democratic world decision would actually consolidate it--which I believe all should welcome in bringing about greater unity if that is the final decision, whatever our initial preference may have been. However, as mentioned, it is arrogant to assume it must be English, and this even ironically limits the possibility for English to be consolidated given that all nations (and language groups) must feel sufficiently respected to come to the table to autonomously decide on one. If it is a language other than English, the sooner we get started on it, the better.

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