Eradicating Poverty: Moving Forward as One
Over the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about a published statement of the Baha'i International Community, Eradicating Poverty: Moving Forward as One. In it they present the Baha'i vision of the steps necessary to not only "remove the ills of poverty" but "to engage the masses of humanity in the construction of a just global order".
Poverty eradication is largely spoken about in material terms. They suggest the deeper crisis is "rooted in the values and attitudes that shape relationships at all levels of society". To give one of the more salient examples, gender equality as a social value has a tremendous effect on development. Where women are educated and empowered and have access to employment and ownership, there is a dramatic increase in the standard of living. This requires a transformation of attitude and fundamental beliefs about the role of men and women.
Some additional areas where individual and society transformation are needed include justice and human rights and the goal of allowing the individual to regain dignity and self-worth, governmental responsibility, individual responsibility to strive to achieve excellence, economic theories rooted not just in profit motives but in the "human and relational dimension of all economic activity", alleviation of extremes of wealth, a concern for the natural environment and sustainable development, attention given to agriculture, and provision of meaningful work as a means of developing one's craft and contributing to the progress of society.
Education is the foundation of the advancement of society, which begins with the first step of increased enrollment in schools, but we also need to create "a society in which the production, diffusion, and application of knowledge infuses all facets of human activity". Child-rearing practices should foster questioning and there should be equal opportunities for boys and girls. The Baha'i International Community states "In order to be free to innovate, to devise solutions to complex problems, the human mind must be free to know".
Alleviation of poverty includes not only material concerns but also the spiritual dimension, the "vision of the full measure of human prosperity" . Religion has the power to "compel the fundamental changes in human character and belief needed to overcome the destructive behaviors which have led to present day conditions", and also to "galvanize and sustain the human will to persevere, to strive for excellence, to humbly serve, to create, to seek knowledge, to cultivate beauty and to seek the well being of all humankind". The task before us "to generate the knowledge and commitment needed to overcome poverty" is essentially a spiritual task as well as a material task. The statement presents to us the vision of a bright future if we are up to the challenge and use our entire intellectual and spiritual potential: "as the fullness of our humanity is engaged, it will regenerate the fabric of civilization".
I encourage you to read the statement in its entirety: Eradicating Poverty: Moving Forward as One. I have only captured bits and pieces of it here, but I hope I have been able to at least give a glimpse of the intent of the message and its inspiration to action and personal transformation.